Our first stop in Cambodia was Phnom Penh where we learnt about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge rule, aka Pol Pot’s brutal regime. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished during the years of his rule between 1975 to 1979. The legacy of these three years left Cambodia with a huge gap in a generation and haunted memories. People were forced to leave their homes and join segregated farming communities by young, uneducated soldiers that Pol Pot had recruited from the countryside. His idea was to eradicate education and societal classes making Cambodia an unified working class, a communist land of farmers and peasants. Men, women, elderly and children all slaved for long hours in rice fields with little to eat. It was a sobering educational visit the Killing Fields in Choeung Ek to view where the Khmer Rouge took prisoners to kill them. Lined along a ditch on their knees many were executed with farm tools to the sound of blaring propaganda music they used to cover their screams. With the bodies they found after the fall of Khmer Rouge they made a chillingly beautiful memorial with 8000 skulls collected in a glass tower looking over the fields. Skulls of elderly, men, women and children lie lined in classified rows.
One of the most sobering moments was leaning against a tree and finding human teeth in the folds of the bark.