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Visiting places that were home to horrific events is not something I like to include in my itinerary, however, the Killing Field and S21 are “must dos” when in Phnom Penh. Our first stop on Genocide Thursday was the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. It is a half hour tuktuk drive from the center of PP and, as the name suggests, is where a lot of killing went on. There is a Genocide Museum, a monument full of skulls, excavated mass graves, and bones and clothing from victims can be seen sticking out of the ground. Men, women, and children were executed and buried in mass here. There is a tree that still had blood stains from children’s heads. Soldiers would hold them by their feet and bash their skulls into the tree before tossing them into holes in the ground. This was really heavy stuff. After a very somber stroll through this eerie place, we went to S21. S21 was the detention center where 20,000 men, women, and children were detained and interrogated before being finished off at places like Choeung Ek. Only 7 of the 20,000 survived. The compound itself is a school in the center of the city that was converted into a place of terror by the Khmer Rouge. There was still blood on the floors, walls, and ceilings. Pictures of the victims were displayed as well as photos of pre, during, and post torture. We got to walk through the holding cells and interrogation rooms. The Khmer Rouge was primarily a bunch of teachers and academics that were well educated. Their stated intention was to create a self-sufficient agricultural utopia devoid of social classes and money. Somehow this resulted in S21 and the Killing Fields. The truly disturbing thing is that all of this happened recently. It was just in the late 1970s that all of this took place. Touring these places is something I am glad that I did, but would not want to do again.

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