Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Remembering the victims

An all too common a sight in Cambodia at one of 70+ memorials across the country
The genocide memorial at Wat Ampe Phnom, next to the river
Wat Ampe Phnom is a holiday resort for Cambodians, usually resounding to the squeals of laughter, the patter of the fortune-tellers and the smell of cooked food, but it also has a dark history, as a killing zone of the Khmer Rouge. Between 1975-79, the KR used Wat Ampe Phnom as a prison and the area surrounding the pagoda as a mass gravesite, containing an estimated 4,000 victims. A lovely old nun, Reung, told me that many of the pits containing the bodies were dug up as desperate locals searched for gold in the aftermath of the Vietnamese invasion before the local authorities began exhuming the bodies properly in the early 80s. She said that a large number of pits remain untouched. The genocide memorial stands close to the riverbank and has skulls on the top level, with leg and arm bones, and clothing, on the lower level. Another witness was Un Hak, who showed me a tree where women were tied or nailed to the trunk and their stomachs slit open and their bodies buried at the base of the tree. Scratch the surface anywhere in Cambodia and these stories are common place. That's why a trial, even after all these years, is important for Cambodians to feel as though all that pain and suffering has not been forgotten, and those who gave the orders, are brought to justice.
Leg and arm bones, and clothing, on the lower level
The skulls are kept on the upper level of the memorial
The frail but lively nun named Reung

1 comment:

Daniel (Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor) said...

Thank you raising awareness about the horrible tragedy that struck people of Cambodia. I would like to pay my respect to these innocent people. What happened to them is horrible.

We must not forget and we must prevent this crime from happening ever again!