Exploring Phnom Penh

A rickshaw driver taking a break in the shade, Phnom Penh
A rickshaw driver taking a break in the shade, Phnom Penh

Gosh, eight years! It's been a while since Heike and I have been to the Kingdom of Cambodia. During our World Trip we spend some time in Siem Reap and Angkor but we haven't really managed to see more. Taking advantage of a extra public holiday we went to Phom Penh, the capital and spent a weekend learning about the terror regime of the Khmer Rouge and exploring the side streets of the City. Returning to safe, clean and prosperous Singapore we were humbled by the friendliness again of the people we met who fend for the daily life with just a few dollars and where hope of a new millenium and decades of despair sometimes seems just a second away.


Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison was probably the most depressing place I have been to. The photos of the prisoners and blunt description of torture and murder made me want to leave the place and I actually only stayed for a bit more than 40 minutes. It's unclear how many people were actually held in Tuol Sleng but it could have been up to 20,000 over time. Only 12 survived. 


There are more than 20,000 mass graves scattered around Cambodia. Choeung Ek is one of them, 17km away from Phom Penh where a number of prisoners from Tuol Sleng were brought to be executed. About 9,000 human remains have been discovered. n order to save ammunition, the executions were often carried out using poison, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. In some cases the children and infants of adult victims were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunks of trees. You can still find a lot of bones, teeth and fragments of clothes on the ground and after every heavy rain more remains are washed up. 


Pol Pot died in 1998 and was never held responsible for the death of up to three million people in a country of just eight million.