Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Remembering the 20,000

The genocide memorial at Wat Ka Koh, seen from the rice fields in front of the pagoda
The memorial at Wat Ka Koh contains the remains of 3,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge
Yesterday I took a return trip to visit Wat Ka Koh, located just a few kilometres from Tonle Bati. Wat Ka Koh, which is also known as Wat Sauphy, houses a genocide memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge slaughter that took place in the immediate vicinity of the pagoda between 1975 and 1979. Conservative estimates put the total number of dead at more than 20,000, when the locale was investigated by the DC-Cam team seven years ago. I visited the memorial a few weeks ago - read my report here - but my camera was stolen and the pictures lost, hence my return visit yesterday. The wind picked up as I arrived at the site and leaves and flower petals were being blown around the memorial as I took my photos. The building itself creaked in the wind and I felt goosebumps on my arms as I photographed the 3,000 skulls and skeletal remains of the deceased through the dirty glass window. Memorials like Wat Ka Koh are not to everyone's taste, the prime minister has resisted calls for many years to take them down and cremate the remains, that are presently housed in around 80 memorials across the country. These memorials were built to honour the dead and where religious rites are still performed, as well as a vehicle to maintain evidence of the genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge. At some of the memorials, remembrance services will take place in a few days on 7 January to mark the 29th Victory over Genocide anniversary.

The memorial stupa was constructed and designed by the daughter of one of the victims

3,000 of the best-preserved skulls were selected to be housed in the memorial stupa

One of the 1.7 million victms of the Khmer Rouge genocide, honoured at Wat Ka Koh

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