Monday, December 10, 2007

Genocide memorial at Wat Try Treng

The open-sided genocide memorial at Wat Try Treng replaced an old wooden structure in 1997
The victims remains are mixed with leaves, pieces of cloth and leg irons
With human rights on the world's agenda today, I visited a genocide memorial yesterday where some of the 1.7 million people who died under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s were denied even their most basic human right to live. The memorial is at Wat Try Treng (aka Wat Baset Chas), that sits on the top of Phnom Baset, a little over 30kms north of Phnom Penh. There's not much to see but its important in that it represents the darkest period in recent Cambodian history, especially as some of those responsible for the genocide in this beautiful country, are currently being detained accused of crimes aginst humanity. The current open-sided memorial was erected in 1997 with donations by wealthy Khmers living overseas to replace an old wooden structure that used to house the remains of more than 150 victims, killed in the prison at Khnoep. Sun Sen, the 70 year old attendant who explained about the site, told me that he believed some of the victims were high-ranking former Lon Nol government ministers, who were targetted for death immediately after the Khmer Rouge troops rolled into Phnom Penh in April 1975. Many of the victims were uncovered at Khnoep with leg irons attached and these are on display, though Sun Sen said the pile of bones and skulls that used to be there have greatly diminished over the years as people have taken the bones away, believing them to be relatives. Phnom Baset itself is a popular tourist attraction for locals in particular but these days, here and elsewhere few pay any attention to the memorials dotted around Cambodia. I've visited quite a few these and you can see more here.

This is 70 year old attendant Sun Sen, who moved to Wat Try Treng after the Khmer Rouge were expelled

These leg irons were discovered with the bodies of the victims of the Khmer Rouge at the Wat Try Treng site

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