Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Road Trip

After an eye opening day into the history of Cambodia Gwen, Bella and I decided to go get a $1 pedicure done. We all got flowers on our toes.

Bella getting her toes done

At night the motor scooters have to come inside. Even with such high fences they can still get stolen if left outside. Ollie decided to go for a ride in one of the helmets as the moto's were coming in.

We woke up early the next day, piled up the car and piled in for our trip to Siem Reap. Poor Gwen sat in the back squished between the two kids for the entire trip which was around 6 hours. Trust me when I say the worst road in Australia is probably better than the best road in Cambodia.

The following images are taken as we drove along. Sorry for the quality but it was through a windshield and like I said ... the roads!

Monks going from house to house providing a blessing in exchange for food or cash. This lady is giving food.

We made one stop on the way for a toilet stop. As usual there are always sales people around. Tarantula anyone? Oh there were cockroaches and crickets as well but that photo didn't turn out.

Gwen finally giving in and buying some mango.

From what I understand the majority of second hand cars in Cambodia have been written off somewhere else in the world, rebuilt and sold here. I don't think they did a good job of rebuilding this one.

Believe it or not this bus and our car were going straight. The bus however was going straight at an angle.

In the cities these would have most likely been motor scooters but in the country it is the old donkey and cart.

I love the irony in this image. Using the oldest form of transport while talking on the latest communication technology.

Once in Siem Reap we stayed at Sojourn. I would recommend this place to anyone. I had a Villa all to myself. The floors and bathroom were made of black marble. The bath was deep and the water turned on through a little waterfall. The shower rose was wide and lovely. The best part was the airconditioning.

This was my bed

Tea set on the window seat

We arrived just in time for mosquito fogging. It reminded me of the men going around in Korea smoking out cockroaches.

The salt water pool with bar. Would you believe it was heated. I had to have a cold shower after woulds to cool down. My villa was the one sort of to the left of centre.

We went out to dinner in town and I came back to my bed turned down, muted lights on and three delicious dark chocolates on a plate. They did this every night.

Some of the flora around the grounds.

If you plan on going to Siem Reap for a holiday make sure you book yourself into Sojourn (they are on the Internet). It is run by an Australian couple, the staff are really friendly and helpful (one even gave me a wake up call at 4am one morning), and the food is delicious.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Toul Sleng

History is rife with atrocities that man has done to man. A common quote tells us to learn from our mistakes so that history does not repeat itself and yet it seems that history has become a blueprint for future atrocities rather than a wake up call. We hope and pray that in this "civilised world" we will not see anything like the concentration camps and gas chambers of world war 2.

Ironically many of you reading this were most likely alive in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia. This was in our life time, our civilised world and yet something like this still happened. I hope that by bringing this to your attention that it may prevent something like this happening in future but as history has proven, history does repeat itself no matter how civilised we think we are.

My previous post was on the Killing Fields. This post is about the prison that people were sent to for 12 months of torture prior to being sent to the Killing Fields. If you were brought to this place for any reason they would torture you to find out who your family and co-conspirators were and where they were. The idea was to wipe out entire families to avoid an uprising.

As you walk into the grounds you realise that the prison was a converted high school. To think that children with high hopes of the future used to walk these grounds prior to it becoming a place of torture.
My guide started with 14 white graves. From what I could understand these people were found as they had been left after dying in torture. Each room they were in was large and he told me they had been people who were high up in the country so I assumed they were people from the Khmer Rouge itself.
This is from inside one of the rooms. The ammunition's box sitting on the bed was used as a toilet and then the waste disposed of in large pots outside for further use in torture. One of these rooms I walked into had blood splattered across the high ceiling.
A photo was taken of each of the 14 victims that were found and it now hangs in the room they were found in. I thank God they are not very clear but unfortunately they are clear enough.
Outside of these rooms is a sign with rules for the prison. In essence if you made a noise during torture you would be whipped with electric lashes.
I will not say much about the gallows as this the below image is clear enough to read. Suffice to say this is where the human waste ended up.
This section of the building housed smaller cells and now houses the images of those who were brought here. The L shapes on the floor are where the walls for each cell were. In the next couple of images you can still see some of the original cells. Each one was big enough to lie down in and be chained to the floor. To enter you needed to turn sideways.
Pol Pot took his queue from Nazi Germany and documented everything with photographs. Each one of these children did not survive.
My guide told me that Pol Pot wanted to destroy any form of hierarchy. This meant that all had to wear the same style black clothes and pants, all women had to have the same haircut and wear their hair the same way. Mass marriages were performed where you married the person who appeared in line next to you.
Most of the images at Toul Sleng do not have an expression however this guy stood out to me.
Children were brainwashed and turned against their own people.
This image was the most heart wrenching for me. This woman's husband had been high up in the government (not sure if it was the Khmer Rouge govt or the one before), and because he was considered a traitor his whole family would die. In this photo you don't realise that she has her head against the prong that would force electricity into her body. They did this while she held her sleeping baby.
You can't see it in this image but hers is the only photo where you can see a tear going down her cheek.
It seems that the more civilised we get, the more technically advanced we are at torturing people. There has to be a major change in people's way of thinking for this to not happen again, and I don't mean a forced change either.
On another note. When I arrived at Toul Sleng this man came up to me asking for money. I gave him US$1 which is a lot there. When I was ready to leave I could not find my Tuk Tuk driver anywhere. This man ran up and down the streets trying to find him for me. This is not my photo as I did not feel comfortable in taking one so soon after seeing all those images. This is one of Gwen's photos. She does not know how he got burned, it could have been from the war, it could have been an acid attack or something as simple as a burning mosquito net. He was a very nice man and I hope his life will be blessed.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

These Should Not be Forgotten Years

In an earlier blog post I mentioned the killing fields and that I would post images. I would like to say again that I am posting these because this is an era in our lifetime that should not be forgotten. On comparison it is just as bad as what the Nazi's did; some say it is even worse because these were Pol Pot's own people. You hear a lot about Hitler and the Nazi's but you don't hear much about the Khmer Rouge. Just over 30 years ago the Khmer Rouge emptied out Phnom Penh and started the killing of all educated people and their families. Today Cambodia is still struggling to pick up the pieces and educate and train it's people.

Midnight Oil sang a song called the "Forgotten Years." The chorus of this song now reminds me of what I have seen:

The hardest years, the darkest years, the roarin’ years, the fallen years
These should not be forgotten years
The hardest years, the wildest years, the desperate and divided years
We will remember, these should not be forgotten years

Some of the following images may shock you but like the chorus above says, these should not be forgotten.

In my first post I wrote of the Ironic beauty of the place. These particular killing fields are in a very beautiful area. It is sad to know that under that water are more mass graves.
This was my guide. He is a year older than me and one of the lucky ones. His family were already farmers, but even that didn't stop some from being taken the Killing Fields
This image is of the shackles that would go onto peoples ankles. There would be many one iron bar. The image after this is my guide demonstrating how they worked. It amazes me that he was so calm doing it but then he told me it was to help people to remember.
This is the start of the mass graves. There is a designated dirt track to follow but even then I realised I was walking on bones.
Every now and then you would see teeth or bone coming out of the path you were walking on. Clothes also were making their way to the surface.
At the base of this tree you can see some of the clothes that have been moved off the path. The explanation about this tree is below. My guide told me though that people living in the area were not stupid and they knew what was going on here.
This is the tree I mentioned in my earlier blog about the children. If trees could cry I am sure this one would have withered and died.
The children were picked up by the ankles ....
This grave was reserved for those Soldiers who turned against the Khmer Rouge. They had a particularly slow and torturous death as an example to any other soldier who turned. If you have ever seen a banana tree the leaf prong has a relatively sharp edge. This is what was used to decapitate them.
Banana prong
Another grave, mainlly women and children
They didn't believe in using bullets.
Not everyone died instantly. Some were unconscious as they were thrown into the grave.
In the 80's a flood unearthed a lot of the graves. This memorial was built to house the skulls that were found. I believe it also has something to do with a Buddhist belief but I was unsure what my guide was saying.
This was just the morning. In the afternoon I went to Toul Sleng (not sure of the spelling). It was the prison people were tortured for 12 months to give up their families and co-conspirators. I will put that in a separate blog.