Sunday, March 22, 2009


Day 375
After a nice English breakfast we did some ne
gotiating and hired a guy to drive us around in his tuk tuk for a few hours.

Our first stop was the infamous Toul Sleng Museum. This began its life as a school and many of ht chalk boards were still on the walls. To understand what it became requires a bit of history. In the late 60's Cambodia was sucked into the Vietnam war. Troops invaded and pushed the communist forces deep into hiding. Fighting engulfed the country and ended only when the Khmer Rouge (communist party) took Phnom Phen on 4/17/1975. After this the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, implemented one of the bloodiest revolutions the world has ever seen. Money was abolished, cities abandoned and Cambodia transformed into a peasant dominated agrarian cooperative. Over the next four years the majority of the countries educated people were relocated, tortured and executed. Anyone who spoke a foreign language or wore glasses was killed. Others died of mistreatment, malnutrition and disease. About 2 million Cambodians were killed.

In late 1978 Vitnam invaded and overthrew the KR. In the chaos thousands set off to find missing family members. The harvest was neglected and more people died. The violence continued throughout the 1980's. In 1991 a peace accord was signed and the king reinstated. The KR did not disband until 1998, the year that Pol Pot died. He was never tried for his crimes against the Cambodian people.

Tuol Sleng was turned into the largest detention and torture center in the country. In 1977 the jail claimed 100 lives a day. This place was huge and was made up of three different buildings.

The first building had 3 floors of the same thing. A former classroom with a rusted bed and some torture implements. On the walls were pictures of people who had died on the beds. On the floor there were blood stains. It was shocking how you could just walk right up to it all and even touch it if you wanted to.

The second building had rows and rows of pictures of the people who had been prisoners here. Men, women, children, it didn't matter. The KR tended to kill entire families at once so that the survivors couldn't band together to seek revenge. Most of the people had easy to see injuries and a haunting look in their eyes. On the next floor there were rows and rows of cells. They weren't long enough for someone as tall as me to lie down in. On the next floor was the history that I wrote earlier and detailed information on the top KR officials.

The last building was filled with more photos and personal stories. We had been at the prison for almost two hours at this point and could only take so much more. I was glad when it was time to leave. Our tuk tuk driver met us with a big smile trying to cheer us up.

Cambodia is far from healed. It was so recent and people are still killed and maimed by uxo's every year. There is a huge number of people here missing limbs. The money here is called the reil, but most business is down in US dollar. That's what comes out of the ATM's. Although things are improving there is still an entire generation of intellectuals missing. Cambodians seem very happy go lucky, but this comes with a live in the moment mentality that prevents people from saving or preparing for the future. It would be really interesting to come back in 30 years and see how things have changed.

To fight our depression we decided that it was time for a little retail therapy and we headed to the Russian Market. We both picked up a few things before our tuk tuk driver took us back to our hotel.

While we were having dinner we met a few people from the area Nicole is from. I didn't really care for them and I soon headed back on my own while Nicole stayed out.

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