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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe term Killing Fields was made famous in the mid-80s thanks to a British movie which brought the horrors of Cambodia’s genocide into a worldwide audience. To local Cambodians, however, the Killing Fields were an abhorrent truth during the bloody rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Countrywide, tens of thousands of mass graves have been discovered in the last two decades, with those at Choeung Ek being the largest and most famous.
What to Expect from a Visit to Choeung EkIt’s quite imperative to first visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh if you wish to understand the full extent of Cambodia’s genocide. After you learn about the interrogations which took place there, you’ll be more prepared for the stories of the executions which occurred here. Everything will make a lot more sense.
Choeung Ek was once a quiet and beautiful orchard, and became the main execution and burial spot for Phnom Penh during the 4-year Khmer Rouge rule. All those who survived the extreme interrogations at Tuol Sleng were taken to these fields to be killed. In total, it is estimated that over 17,000 were buried here. Almost 130 mass graves have been discovered, yet almost half have been left undisturbed. As you walk around, you’ll still notice shredded clothing and bone fragments scattered about the fields.
A Buddhist stupa has been constructed at the entrance, as a memorial for those who lost their lives. Through the glass panels, you’ll see thousand of skulls lining the walls, most of which were fractured. The great majority of the people who died here were bludgeoned to death, so as to spare the expense of bullets.
The multi-language audio guide is an essential component of a visit, and walks you past some of the most common execution sites. All along, personal stories are told, both by the few who survived and, of particular horror, some of the guards who worked here. Within the grounds you’ll also find a small museum which is currently displaying the events of the ongoing trials of the still-too-few- Khmer Rouge generals who have since been arrested.
How to Get ThereThe Choeung Ek site is about 15km south-east of the city center and reached either by tuk-tuk or rented scooter, the latter being not the most favorable option due to the congested and dangerous driving conditions in Phnom Penh. A much safer and more comfortable option would be to spend $ 15 USD to hire a tuk-tuk and rider for half a day. Due to heavy traffic it can take up to an hour to reach the site, which itself warrants a three-hour visit.
Admission InfoThe site is open from 7.30 a.m. till 5 p.m. Admission is $ 6.00 USD and this includes audio guide.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Apr 10, 2015