Until the last two days, our trek through Southeast Asia has been full of water-gun fights, blessings from Buddhist Monks, and cruises down the Mekong (and of course: cockroaches and squat toilets).
Presently, our trip has taken a darker turn down the tumultuous road of this region’s violent past. This is a journey I have very much wanted to take–a reminder of human atrocities and the fight for justice and equality everywhere.
Yesterday, we visited a prosthetics cooperative in Laos that provides aid to victims of unexploded ordinances that still remain long after American bombing ceased.
Today, we arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We explored the Killing Fields where so where between 1.5-3 million Cambodians were slaughtered during the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970’s aftermath of the Vietnam War. Although seemingly just a field, this site was a mass grave. Upon close inspection, as we walked along the worn path ways of the Killing Fields, we could see a victim’s teeth, jaw, or other bones protruding up through the dirt. We saw trees against which executioners smashed children to death in front of their parents. We saw the skulls of many victims displayed in a monument. It was horrifying.
We also explored Toul Sleng Prison, where the victims were brought to be interrogated and tortured. There were many pictures of the murdered Khmer, Vietnamese, and journalists – both before and after their deaths. The most shocking though was the pictures of the executioners – they were just young boys.
This was a deeply emotional day, but also an important one. We must all remember these horrific acts and work to prevent them from happening again. We must also realize that these horrific events still occur today in many parts of the world.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia