Monday, January 07, 2008

Forever linked

The stark numbers involved at Choeung Ek include 8,985 victims' remains uncovered
The Choeung Ek site during exhumation in late 1980
Some of the victims blindfolds remained intact
Rows of victims skulls were shown on tv news stations across the globe
The wooden charnel house at Choeung Ek was finally replaced in 1988
Tuol Sleng and the killing fields of Choeung Ek will be forever linked. The latter was in essence the burial ground for those arrested and tortured at Tuol Sleng. A few were killed and buried at the prison itself, but most victims were shipped the fifteen kilometres out of the capital at night by truck, many blindfolded, some were even made to dig their own graves before they were bludgeoned to death by pick-axe, hoe, iron bar, wooden club or whatever else served as a weapon of death. The Khmer Rouge refused to waste precious ammunition on their victims, many of whom were their own cadre and their families. The photographs above are on display in Block B at Tuol Sleng. They show the burial site before the white marble memorial chedi was erected in 1988. They show it during exhumation in late 1980, when pictures of the skulls - some still with their blindfolds intact - laid out in neat rows on the ground were some of the most graphic images I recall from television documentaries of the time. They tell of the numbers: 129 burial pits, of which 86 were exhumed - 43 mass graves remain untouched - and the remains of 8,985 people were recovered. The stark wooden charnel house was their home where Buddhist funeral rites were performed to allow the spirits of the deceased a more peaceful passage to the afterlife, until the large white chedi was erected, which you see today.

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