Phnom Penh | Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields
Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s wealthiest and most populous city and also its capitol. An originally French-built city, once known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, Phnom Penh still has a few surviving French colonial buildings, but is now famous for being a major tourist destination within Indochina. Something definitely worth a visit is Tuol Sleng (an old school which was used to hold and torture people) and the appropriately named ‘Killing Fields’.
The Killing Fields are a number of sites where over a million people were killed and buried by the Communist Khmer Rouge regime, from 1975 to 1979. Analyses indicate at least 1,386,734 victims were executed, which is pretty shocking. The total number of deaths by the Khmer Rouge ranges from 1.7 to 2.5 million out of a population of roughly 8 million. It’s an overwhelmingly sad and disturbing place to visit, but I think learning about a country’s history is equally as important as tasting their cuisine, or visiting their famous landmarks. We spent a couple of hours walking around; one especially disturbing areas was where children were once picked up and slammed against a tree. There was a cabinet nearby containing multiple small skulls and their teeth and bones lay scattered around the trunk. A couple of the survivors walk around the site almost daily, talking to visitors and selling their book, which tells the story from the viewpoint of people who were actually there. It’s definitely a sombering experience, but a must-do if you are ever in Phnom Penh.