CAMBODIA: The Mysterious Tragedy Revealed

March 15, 2018

As a foreigner, neither Phnom Penh nor Siem Reap is the best country or Cambodia as a country to live in. Staying for a couple of days in both cities never bothered me to crave or feel the want to stay their for more days. Being ripped off is not my choice but maybe next time I'll try to be wiser than them if ever I decide to go back.

I arrived at Phnom Penh late in the afternoon then I headed directly to the guesthouse where I am staying for 2 days. Yes! I only stayed in Phnom Penh for 2 days and that was totally a wrap and full of exciting experiences. My only mission in Phnom Penh is to discover its hidden tragedy; The sadness and tortures they suffered before. So the next day, I hopped on the bicycle I rented from a travel agency office near the Royal Palace Park.

I first went to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center that is almost 10 kilometres away from the Royal Palace park. Choeung Ek is a site known as The Killing Fields where the Khmer Rouge executed more than one million people between 1975 and 1979.

Most of them are politicians or former political prisoners who were kept by the Khmer Rouge in their Tuol Sleng detention center. But, now, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa.

The stupa is protected by acrylic glass. It is filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. You can see the mark of how those people were being killed or which torture they suffered before they died. There's a legend on each side of the glass classified by colors determining how each one of them received the torture.



The Stupa is surrounded by the memories that until now they are commemorating. Remembering each one who died with by putting the things they left on earth such as their clothes, toys from children and many more. Some of them were founded by the workers and some by the visitors. It was collected after coming out when its raining, collected and put into a glass box.  


This was the place where they saw a mass grave of more than 100 victims mostly children and women who are naked. The big tree beside of the mass grave is where small children and also babies were smashed to death. Years ago, they have seen that the tree was painted with blood.

This tree is what they call the "magic tree " not pertaining literally to magic but it was where they used to hang a loudspeaker to avoid hearing the moans of the victims while they were being executed especially at night. 


Upon entering the genocidal center you will pay the entrance fee and you will also be given an audio guide where you can hear horrific stories from the survivors dwelling about their experiences. It is so inconceivable that such a peaceful place could have been the site of horror.

But before the prisoners have been killed they were kept and interrogated in Tuol Sleng detention center. Upon arrival at the prison, the prisoners were photographed and required to give detailed autobiographies. After that, they will be taken to their prison cells. Those who were taken to the smaller cells were shackled to the walls or the concrete floor and for those who were taken to the large mass cells were collectively shackled to long pieces of iron bar. They sleep on the floor without mats and forbidden to talk to each other.

***Before this building was made as a torturing site or jail, it was Chao Ponhea Yat High School. The school complex has 5 buildings. When converted into a prison and interrogation center, it was enclosed by barbed wires and iron bars in order for the prisons not to escape nor commit suicide. 

Entering each room will let you see how they were being tortured. The torture system was designed to make the prisoners admit or confess to whatever crimes they committed or were charged by their captors. Prosecutors used electric shocks, hot metals and chemicals. Other methods of torture are cutting them with knives, suffocating with plastic bags and sometimes pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on the wounds.

You can really feel the intense pain of the prisoners while entering each rooms. Some of the displays have no captions or if they have, it has no English translations. So it is advisable to rent an audio guide or if you're coming with a guide you can listen to the guide carefully to understand and feel the history.

I ended my day with a smile and completed my mission in Phnom Penh. The story behind this developing country is so captivating. No wonder they are really striving hard to get a better life and living. People are so afraid to have this experience again. Not only Cambodia suffered this tragedy. There were some countries who secretly and silently remembering their past. But everyone should live in the future. Everyone can make their own history! So keep wandering guys! 

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