THE KILLING FIELDS



WHAT WE THINK:


The “Killing Fields” consists of mass graves of innocent Cambodians, their bodies and clothes riddled across the ground. This is their horrid final resting place on this earth and now it is a "tourist attraction" - but hopefully more importantly, a tribute to the people who died.
According to our tour guide at the site we visited, approximately 14,000 people were brutally murdered and their mangled bodies strewn across the dirty ground in these fields alone. The Khmer Rouge proved that this would be the start and one of many killing fields spread out throughout the countryside to better serve their bloody purpose. The skulls packed by the thousands raised 5 stories on wood shelves, skulls that once held the small fresh faces of children, and the worn wrinkled skin of elders. We hope that their atrocious deaths last in remembrance. Please read the description below to better understand the experience The Killing Fields – an experience that shows, unfortunately, a time when diplomacy failed horribly. However, no words can ever explain the horror we felt at this site, walking upon paths actually have decayed bones and clothes moving up to the surface. Any diplomat who will serve to help Cambodians should visit this site. The doors to the shrine that houses the skulls are open – now, will diplomacy also be open to prevent genocide in the future? Could these doors help open the doors to diplomacy that might help people in Darfur?

 

The following description is used with permission
from our RCTC Course Website:

http://www.cambodiarctc.project.mnscu.edu

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY:
The “Killing Fields” of Cambodia refers to the genocide which took place in Cambodia after the takeover of power by Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime.  They were in power for four years—until 1979—when the Vietnamese, who were engaged in an often violent border dispute with the Khmer Rouge, finally invaded in force and seized power from the Khmer Rouge.

The genocide in Cambodia is unique.  Out of a population of approximately 7 million, about 2 million Cambodians were systematically exterminated, starved, or worked to death by the Khmer Rouge government (known to the people as simply, “Angkar,” or “the organization”).  Over 25% of the Cambodian people died at the hands of the “Angkar.”  To put it in terms Americans will understand, the American equivalent of the Cambodian genocide would mean the death of 70 million Americans.

The “Angkar’s” plan was an extreme form of Chairman Mao’s ideal of state organization by totalitarian communes—in addition to forcing the peasants into collective farms with communal kitchens and barracks, Pol Pot's troops also forcibly deported the entire urban population of Cambodia into rural communes.  In fact, the first act of the Khmer Rouge upon taking power in Phnom Penh (a city of about 2,000,000) was to depopulate the city, forcing almost everyone out of the city, rounding the city’s residents up like cattle and telling them that they must leave for the “safety” of the countryside for a couple of days because of anticipated American bombing attacks. 

But it was Pol Pot’s intention to forcibly construct a “peasant society” that would represent “the true Khmer values of Cambodia’s glorious history,” when the Khmer empire ruled most of Southeast Asia in the 12th and 13th centuries.  According to the famous historian Paul Johnson, in the journal Modern Times:

There was to be "total social revolution." Everything about the past was "anathema and must be destroyed." It was necessary to "psychologically reconstruct individual members of society." It entailed "stripping away, through terror and other means, the traditional bases, structures and forces which have shaped and guided an individual's life" and then "rebuilding him according to party doctrines by substituting a new series of values." (quote taken from www. markhumphrys.com/communism.asia.html)

The bourgeoisie (urban middle class), non-Communist intellectuals, better-off peasants—all shared the fate of numerous other groups demonized by the Khmer Rouge, such as the Vietnamese minority, anyone who could speak a foreign language, teachers, monks, Muslims.  Indeed, even those who wore glasses or had a high forehead (evidence of being smart) were targeted by the Khmer Rouge.  

Families were split up and spread to rural communes around the country.  In fact, children separated from their parents, monks, village elders, and living in a society with a complete moral breakdown, were often “brainwashed” and indoctrinated with fanatical doctrines so that they might be used by the Khmer Rouge to carry out their ruthless killings.  The work at the primitive, rural communes was backbreaking and unrelenting.  It was the Khmer Rouge’s plan to grow rice to sell abroad for weapons, thus leaving the commune-bound Cambodians precious little to eat.  Many starved to death, or died of sicknesses related to malnutrition.  Slackers were taken away and bludgeoned to death (the soldiers did not want to waste their bullets).

Really, the killing rate in Cambodia is without parallel. The Khmer Rouge strictly isolated Cambodia from the rest of the world and then mixed executions, harsh labor, and calculated famine to create a brutal prison-nation where every person was an inmate.

It's different from many other genocidal events," observes Adam Fifield, author of A Bles6sing Over Ashes, a new book about a Killing Fields refugee coming of age in America and Cambodia. "It was genocide driven not by racial or religious hatred but by an ideology that had been incubated so fervently that it became insanity." (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/04/15/world/main184477.shtml )

The actual “killing fields” (though there are many “killing fields” spread throughout Cambodia) lies a few kilometers outside of Phnom Penh.  There, the Khmer Rouge would force their victims to dig trenches or pits and then line them up along the edge and bludgeon or bayonet them to death.  The bodies would fall into the pits and dirt would be poured over the bodies, thus burying them.  Some of the victims, of course, would be still alive when buried.  There is a seven story marble building which houses the bones and skulls of the victims excavated so far.  However, there are still so many people buried there that haven't been excavated that when you walk along the paths, the bones and clothing are coming to the surface from erosion. It's very sobering.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Halverson-Wente, Lori. "Cambodia Trip Cambodia: Creating Community Across

Cultures." 20 Feb 2007. <http://www.cambodiarctc.project.mnscu.edu>.

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