The Killing Fields

Disclaimer: This is my post about the Killing Fields and it is not a happy one.

 

I went to the Phnom Penh Killing Fields a week ago Sunday and I’ve probably started this post a dozen different ways. I thought about doing a step-by-step of the experience, what it was like driving up and seeing it for the first time, listening to survivor stories. But that seems really clinical and detached. There is nothing cut and dry about the Killing Fields and what it takes for humans to do that to each other. It’s a messy experience full of chaotic emotions.

But I’m not going to write about the Killing Fields. There are some horrors in the world that are too great for words. There simply are not words that can convey the spirit crushing horror of The Killing Tree and the Magic Tree. There’s nothing I can say or write that will make you understand what it’s like to listen to a recording of what was most likely the last thing people—children, men, and women—heard before they were hacked to death with hoes, scythes, bayonets, and axes.

You can still see clothes coming up from the ground as erosion continues to bring more victims to the surface. Scraps of t-shirts and jackets and blouses tangled in roots.

One of my classmates found a skull.

I found a femur. Part of a femur at least.

There are teeth and bone fragments everywhere.

So no, I could flip through a dictionary for days and still not find the words to explain to you the terrible horror of the Killing Fields so I won’t try.

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According to the audio tour, the children were killed in front of their mothers before the women were raped and killed.
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Most likely, the victims found here were in the Khmer Rouge army and killed as an example to keep others afraid. They were buried in their uniforms.
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When this killing field was discovered there were still bits of brain and bone clinging to the bark. The bracelets hung on the tree are spirit offerings.
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The caretakers collect the clothing and bits of bone that come up once a month and preserve them. The purple shorts on the left side belonged to a small child.
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All the skulls that have been found. So far, 5,000 victims reside in here.
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Forensic Anthropologists did a study on the bones to determine the sex, age, and manner of execution. None were killed with bullets because bullets are expensive.
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Five Thousand skulls. And there are more still in undisturbed pits under a lake.
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The people killed were doctors, teachers, lawyers. People with education and their families.

 

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Someone’s t-shirt coming up from the pit. The mass graves were dusted with powdered DDT to kill anyone who might have survived the initial execution
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One thought on “The Killing Fields

  1. I hesitate to even comment on this because I feel like it disrupts the stillness that comes with this post, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing. I really don’t know much of this history and while I’m terrified to dig into it, I plan to. I feel like we owe the victims some sort of .. I don’t know, but something, some truth just by acknowledging the injustices that happened to them.

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