Monday, December 15, 2008

cambodia's bloody past

Today is our last full day in Cambodia and I must say that I am very much looking forward to being back in metropolitan Bangkok. We started off the day by visiting another huge market, Psha Thmey, otherwise known as the Central Market. The market contained everything from food and housewares to jewelry and clothing to motorcycle parts. From the great variety of food stalls we selected pan fried glutinous rice cakes with chives (similar to those we had in Bangkok). We also picked up a colorful tray of jellies, sticky rice with jack fruit, and some sort of sweet dough.

Afterward we paid a visit to the Choeung Ek Genocide Center (a.k.a. The Killing Fields), a former longan orchard where 17,000+ men, women, and
children were executed by the Khmer Rouge after being accused of treachery. The small area is littered with excavated mass graves, from which ~8,000 skulls have been collected and placed into a memorial stupa. Targets included Buddhist monks, Muslims, educated people, the handicapped, and ethnic Chinese, Laotians, and Vietnamese. Ironically, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, attended technical school in France (although he was forced to return to Cambodia after failing his exams for 3 consecutive years) and was of both Chinese and Khmer ancestry. To avoid "wasting bullets" prisoners were beaten to death with hoes and iron bars or buried alive. From 1975 to 1979 Pol Pot's regime attempted to transform the society into a fully agrarian state and implemented strict food rationing. As a consequence ~26% of the Cambodian population died, mostly due to poor nutrition, overwork, and inadequate health care. The Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge government in 1979.

On the way back we passed the building containing the hideous xmas light display (including an animated volcano shooting snowflakes) we saw the night before and whose name was was not visible in the dark. That's right, your tax dollars are hard at work to run the light show at the US Embassy.

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