The Killing fields.
Just a few miles outside the capital city of Phnom Penh lies a small section of land. A popular tourist attraction, it is but one of the sites that serves to remember Cambodia’s tragic past.
A country that was decimated by US bombings during the Vietnam war, constant and destructive, found themselves in a political upheaval. Hundreds of thousands of Cambodians fleeing the countryside head to the cities for safety and respite. April 17th, 1975 these same people tired and beleaguered cheer as the Khmer Rouge march into their cities. In less than 3 hours, this triumph would turn to fear. A terror that would last 3 years 8 months and 20 days. The Khmer Rouge intent on creating a classless society ordered everyone out of the city into the countryside. Families separated, taking only what they could carry, began a mass exodus. People ill equipped to live or work in harsh agricultural conditions were the first casualties. Thousands died. When the Khmer Rouge’s ideology faltered against impossible expectations, the torture and killing of their own people began. Men, women and children; no one was exempt. In the end not even the Khmer Rouge compadres were spared. It is not known how many Cambodians suffered and died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge but some estimate as many as 3 million. The killings fields, their final resting place.
How could you possibly go to visit such a horrific and tragic place… you might ask?
Because they deserve to be remembered. To be honoured. For someone to hold space and know that despite the ending, they mattered.
When creating a wedding invite list, one never goes through a selection process and thinks, “ I couldn’t invite them, their happiness will overshadow ours!” We know that people are capable of suspending their own emotions and life situations to partake in the occasions of others. Good or bad. Momentous or tragic.
I walked through the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, horrified by the actions of man, awed by the courageous will to survive and learned of a time in history so recently passed.
“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” ~ Harry S. Truman
The people of Cambodia remember and now so shall I. Before entering the Stupa, I knelt, placing a flower and lighting incense. I said a prayer for those that lie within its walls and for my son Ryan.
There is something poetic in that.