Killing Fields, Phnom Penh
A sign reminds visitors to show respect to the million people who died at the hands of Pol Pot, but i think the sign is not necessary as it is a most somber place. The visitor is greeted by a strange site of a tower with several levels, actually it is a Buddhist Stupa and each level is filled with skulls of the victims which can be seen through the glass. The victims were killed between '75 and '79.
Be prepared for the horrors of visiting one of the killing fields at Choeung Ek as when you enter the first thing you will see is a tall monument filled with skulls of the victims who were mainly clubbed to death. Prisoners were delivered on trucks or forced to march from Tuol Sleng only to die at the hands of the Khymer Rouge. A place to contemplate while you visit. Most city travel agencies include this on their daily trips.
In certain areas you can still see piles of bones.
This was the way the Khmer Rouge tried to hide the horrors they were performing from the residents who lived nearby. Loudspeakers hung from the tree while loud music was played to cover up the screams of the innocent victims who were being killed in the most horrific ways.
As the sign says this tree was used for killing babies and young children as the Khmer Rouge would beat these innocent children against the tree until they died. When the killing field was first discovered there were fragments of bone and hair on the tree.
8,895 bodies were unearthed in the mass graves at Choeung Ek, but all you can see today are the holes in the ground where they were buried. Also there are piles of bones, torn clothes from the victims on display. As you wander around the path the graves are clearly marked, and many of the victims were former political prisoners that had been detained and tortured at Tuol Sleng Detention center, before being transported here to meet their maker.
Imagine how they felt when the truck stopped at Choeung Ek Killing Field, then the prisoners were bundled off the truck, forced marched to ditches or graves already prepared, and watched while their fellow men were bludgeoned to death. After seeing the Stupa filled with skulls you will come to the sign below which says it all. I have heard stories that some of the victims in other parts of the country had to pay for the bullet that killed them.
Visited the Choeung Ek Memorial and Killing Fields ,on January 2014.
This site opened from 7.30 am until 5.30 pm .Located bout 16 km from Phnom Penh towards the South West. Observed that many of the tourists use ranmorks ,it was a dusty road , they wear face masks.A bit of traffic jams can be experienced on the way there.
Tourist paid for $ 6 and given a headset , paid half that price with no headset.
Our tour guide Mrs Srey Neang told the story throughout this execution site.
A commemorative Stupa, stands at the center of this site, human remains ,of skull and bone fragments are displayed here.You can pray and buy flowers just in front of this stupa.
In Choueng Ek , large numbers of Cambodian people were executed ,and buried, by the Khmer Rouge regime during their rule from 1975 to 1979.
Several sites in are marked ,the truck stop, offices, chemical storage, mass graves , magic tree, a tree called the Chankiri tree, on those infants and children were killed by bashing their head to the tree trunk. People were transported here , mainly from the Tuol Sleng S21 prison.
There's many graves visible on the ground ,and some has fragments of human bones.Some graves and mass graves haven't been excavated.
Sad but sobering site , of how cruel human can be.
Prior to 1975 Choeung Ek, south west of Phnom Penh was a Chinese Cemetery and orchard.
This is such a sad place yet at the same time a beautiful place, very peaceful and serene. It’s hard to understand the horrors that took place here and to think this is just one of many thousands of Killing Fields throughout Cambodia.
Khmer people want everyone to remember what happened in Cambodia and many of them visit Choeung Ek as they believe this to be the final resting place for many of their relatives.
After the victims were tortured and interrogated at Toul Sleng Security Prison 21, the Khmer Rouge then sent them to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, located 16 kilometers from Phnom Penh for execution.
There are many, many mass graves and a memorial stupa containing thousands of cracked skulls of men, women and children exhumed from 129 mass graves. It is estimated that around 40,000 Cambodians were murdered at Cheung Ek between 1975-1978.
You do not see the amount of clothing or bones etc in the ground anymore as they are now collected and stored for safe keeping.
The site can be very disturbing and not recommended for those who are shocked easily.
We have been back again recently to Choeung Ek Killing Fields and things have changed a lot since my first visit. The place has been opened up a lot more, it is very well maintained and there is now a lot more information posted around the Killing Fields.
The audio tapes are an excellent addition and come with the $6 entry fee.
7.30am - 5.30pm
Entry Fee: $6
Choeung Ek is16 kilometers Southwest of Phnom Penh.
There used to be a orchard and a Chinese graveyard. The place is located about 17 km south of Phnom Penh. Nowadays it is the best-known and one of the most visited of the sites known as The Killing Fields.
The Khmer Rouge regime was in power 1975-1979, after Cambodian civil war and they executed at least 1 700 000 persons if these fields. In Choeung Ek the mass graves contained 8,895 bodies. The area was found when Vietnamese came to Cambodia 1979 which was the fall and end of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Many of the dead were local intellectuals, professionals, educated persons and former political prisoners who were kept in Tuol Sleng detention center.
Horrible stories: In order to save ammo, the executions were often carried out using poison, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks (there are paintings in Tuol Sleng of these "actions"). In some cases the children and infants of adult victims were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunks of trees (again, a painting is telling this extremely rude story, photo 3, but WARNING, it's very rude). Some were required to dig their own graves, they were weak, the graves were found almost without cover (photo 2). And the sad issues continues, the "soldiers" who carried out the executions were mostly young men or women.
Let's promise we remember! Never again!
The Killing Fields are sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during years 1975 to 1979, after the end of the Cambodian Civil War. There are different opinions how many killed but the accepted minimum is 1 700 000 of which about 9 000 in Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh.
We European know. We have had similar history, at least close to similar, but Khmer Rouge killed own people and that has happened is USSR during Stalin's times. Russians know. European nazi history tells similar story, but now against one group of people not depending of national origin. Places like Auschwitz and Birkenau have similar influence to Europeans than Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng to Cambodians, the firsts are for torture and the second for mass murders.
We definitely need these museums. They tell us the brutality of man and reminds us how easily power and insanity can lead those in power to these inscrutable actions and hopefully gives us a way out to realize that we need to do everything that these will not happen anymore. Sad but true, the similar activities has been and is been ongoing after these horrible Cambodian events, think what is happening in Africa, what happened in the area we called Yugoslavia and what is happening in those places we know nothing or are not interested. And we need these to memorize all those suffered in these fields, to apologize them what man like us have done to them and their beloved.
Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa. The stupa transparent sides and it's filled with more than 5,000 human skulls. I went if to the stupa, there is space for only a few persons, and all those 5000 skulls were screaming to me: "Why?". I don't have answer but I really really hope that we don't forget and we do everything, as individuals and groups and nations to prevent this happening again. Nowhere!
The film "The Killing Fields" is a dramatized portrayal of events like those that took place at Choeung Ek. I try to find that (as Schindler's list, which I couldn't watch last time it was possible).
This place is indeed sobering, especially when you see bone fragments and clothing fragments in the ground.
Also the resting place of the bones in the memorial stupa as well.
The audio tour is very well done, and includes interviews with people who worked here, etc. Very moving.
Before 1975, the site of Choeung Ek Genocidal Center - located about 15 km southwest of Phnom Penh - was a peaceful Chinese cemetery and a field used for growing longan trees and water melons. During the Khmer Rouge Regime, Choeung Ek became an important part of the Toul Sleng prison (read my other tips) in Phnom Penh. Prisoners were transported from Toul Sleng to Choeung Ek to be executed, and about 20,000 victims were murdered here. After the Khmer Rouge Regime there were found 129 mass graves; the largest mass grave containing 450 corpses.
In 1989, the Government of Cambodia turned Choeung Ek into “The National Center for preservation of the evidence of Khmer Rouge” and “The National Center for recalling and honouring the spirits of victims murdered throughout the country”. A memorial stupa containing thousands of skulls was constructed as a symbol of the cruel and barbaric homicides committed by the Khmer Rouge. You can visit the memorial and the mass graves - but it is not for everyone. Very gruesome and macabre, but it serves as an opportunity to honour the victims and to remember. Remember the terror so that it's not repeated!
The first tour for the day is the killing fields. This is one of the mind blowing, chilling and saddest places I’ve ever been! This place (from the name itself) became the ground where a million of people (foreigners, women and men including babies) were killed during the Pol-Pot regime.
When I first stepped in the entrance, chill went up to my spine, I felt suddenly uncomfortable and the hair on my arms stood… I really have no idea what’s this place is all about. I just thought that we’ll only be seeing the specific sites where the killings took place until we saw this memorial stupa where bones, skulls and clothes of the victims were preserved. After the tour of the sites, we went to the museum and watched a short video about it.
Opening hours- 730am-530pm
Entrance ticket- 2USD (no headset), 5USD (w/headset)
Headset is for the audio tour which is available in different languages. We were lucky that we arrived in the place at 730am and the 1st visitors also that we have a local with us so we were allowed to pay only 2USD ofcourse w/o headset. Normally, foreigners are required to have it. With or without headset, you can still understand and learn how the killings took place since in every numbered site, there are signages/billboards in English that tell how and what happened. It’s what you can also hear in the audio guide.
Choeung Ek is the well-known over 300 killing fields throughout Cambodia. I think most of the people call it as “killing fields” because it’s easier to remember. This place was usually where the victims were brought from the Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum after being tortured then executed here.
During the tour, we were able to have a wider perspective to understand how it happened. Below are the stops for the tour: However, it is advisable to take a moment of prayer in the Memorial Stupa before starting the tour which is also a way of paying respect for the victims.
2. Truck Stop (where civilians were dropped by the Khmer Rouge Guard and executioner, Him Huy)
3. Dark and Gloomy Detention
4. The Executioner’s working office
5. Former Chinese Ceremonial Kiosk
6. Chemical Substances Storage Room
7. Mass Grave of 450 victims
8. Killing tools Storage Room- how people were killed
9. Chinese Grave- where bones and teeth fragments were found
10. Longan Orchard- where people worked to death
11. Mass Grave of 166 victims without heads
12. Glass box- contains the victims’ clothing
13. Killing Tree- where babies’ heads are smashed against it
14. Glass box- contains victims’ bones and teeth
15. Magic Tree
Women and even children were raped many times. Even foreigners were not spared. People with intellectual minds that seem a threat to the communist party were killed. Victims were beaten to death with canes, bamboo stumps, hoes and stabbed with knives or swords.
The Pol Pot criminals wanted to transform Cambodian people into a group which knew and understood nothing and always bent their heads to carry out the orders of KAMPUCHEA Communist Party blindly. They educated and transformed the young people and adolescents whose hearts are pure and modest into executioners who’s willing to kill the innocents, even their own families and friends.
Pol Pot with his men hid until they grew old and died. Pol Pot fled in Thailand and from there, his grave was found. But there’s still one man left alive up to this day who also has committed crime of torture/murder and also one of the Pol Pot criminals-Kaing Guek Eav better known as Duch. Just recently on the 3rd February 2012, The Supreme Court Chamber sentenced Duch for life imprisonment for crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The Khmer people decided to preserve the remains of the Choeung Ek’s victims in the Memorial Stupa to serve as lesson for everyone especially to the next generation so this tragic event will never happen again.
After the visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the Khmer Rouge's story continues with the Killing Fields of Choeung EK. My tuck-tuck driver drove about 15 KM southwest out of the city, passing by some beautiful padi fields, villages, wat, and towns. It was about 1 hour journey including stopping by some villages to take photos.
During Khmer Rouge regime, S-21 was getting crowded with prisoners and more prisoners were executed. To avoid the spread of the epidemic, Choeung EK was chosen as a new location for execution and a burial site for the freshly killed corpses from S-21.
The detainee were loaded in the trucks at around 6 to 6:30pm as it was getting dark to Choeung EK Killing Fields. It was done 2 to 3 times per month after more prisoners had been interrogated. Each time a truck could load up to 60 very skinny pale, blindfolded handcuffed detainees, guarded by 4 Khmer Rouge soldiers, 2 were in the front and others were at the back to prevent the prisoners from escaping.
When a truck arrived at the Killing Fields, the prisoners were transferred from the truck to the gloomy prison with their ankles shackled in addition to previous blindfolded and handcuffed. One of the soldiers would double check the name list made in S-21 to make sure no prisoner escaped during the trip. After the checking, the executioners brought one handcuffed and blindfolded prisoner at a time to be executed mercilessly and cruelly at an already dug-pit which is about 100 meters away from the gloomy prison. After the prisoners were completely killed, the executioners immediately filled up the grave without waiting the dawn broke or the next day.
Today, Killing Fields of Choeung EK is one of the top tourist attractions in the Word. It ranks number two as tourist attraction in Cambodia after Angkor Wat. It was a controversial issue as this historical site was privatised by JC Royal. JC Royal signed an agreement with Cambodia government to pay US15,000 per year to maintain the site for 30 years. In return, JC Royal would allow to increase the admission charges from time to time.
During your visit, you can rent an audio guide (US$3) with map to help you to navigate the site . The audio guide would tell you story of what happened back then of each 19 designated stops. On the east side, you will see a lake. If you look outside the gate behind the lake, you will see a beautiful Cambodia Padi fields. The main attraction of the Killing Fields is the Memoral Stupa. It commemorates those who were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime. The stupa has 8,000 human skulls in a glass shrine stuns into silence.
You can read more about the designated stops in my travelogues.
Opening Hours: 8:00 -17:00
Admission Charge: US$5 (expect to rise)
The Cambodians' tragic over Khmer Rouge ended in 1979 after the victory of Vietnamese to fight against Khmer Rouge. It followed by Cambodia first approached United Nation for the assistance to conduct a trail for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in 1997. Since 1999, the Royal Government of Cambodia has worked with the UN for creation of special court called Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (ECCC), or Khmer Rouge Trial. The top leader Pol Pot died under the house arrest in 1998. Other four top leaders were arrested under provisional detention awaiting trial since March 30 2009.
In this museum, you will learn how Khmer Rough was started, and their ideology of their political reform. You will understand in-depth of those leaders' backgrounds including their hometown, education, and past career. Also, the trails that crime they are committed. If you have time, you can read some of the previous Khmer Rough members' testimonies of why they were doing those cruel acts to their own people.
I learnt that Pol Pot died under home arrest in 1998, and buried in a poor-maintained graveyard in rural area border between Cambodia and Thailand.
Don't miss...if you want to know more...
Between 1975 and 1978, about 17,000 men, women, children and infants who had been detained and tortured at S-21 were transported to the extermination camp of Choeung Ek. They were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting precious bullets.
The remains of 8985 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time longan orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. Fragments of human bone and bits of cloth are scattered around the disinterred pits. More than 8000 skulls, arranged by sex and age, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memorial Stupa, which was erected in 1988. It is a peaceful place today, masking the horrors that unfolded here less than three decades ago.
A memorial ceremony is held annually at Choeung Ek on 9 May. The admission is USD2 and it is open from 8am to 11:30am and 2pm to 5:30pm daily.