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Jac and Jay’s Travel Diary

Monday, 12 Feb 2007

Location: Phnom Penh - S21, Cambodia

MapI did modern history in High school. I was taught about both World Wars, The Cold War and The American War in Vietnam. But in this time, I neither heard mention of Pol Pot nor the genocide he carried out on his own people. Why? This happened on Australia’s doorstep, surely someone knew what was happening?

Tuol Sleng (which translates to ‘poisonous hill in Khmer) is now a museum that records and portrays the mass murder of which the Cambodian people were victims.

It is difficult to walk through the fourteen rooms, each of which had a body shackled to a bed and beaten to death.

Were were brought to the edge of tears as we walked through room after room of photographs of the victims. Each of them – men, women and children – had been accused of being ‘lackeys of American Imperialism’ and ‘traitors to the revolution’ despite many being no older than ten. To stare into their eyes, to realise that each of the two million victims of the Khmer Rouge were not numbers or statistics but humans with families, jobs, lives and perspectives was almost too much.

As we walked through the classrooms that had been mutated into death-row jail cells, my thoughts were not of Pol Pot and his psychopathic rules. Nor could I really begin to empathise with the victims; their fate was almost too horrible to imagine.

All I could think as I left the museum was that we did nothing. The West sat by as these people were tortured and sent to their deaths, each one of them wondering what it was they did to incur the wrath of the Angkar.

Australians said nothing along with the silent United Nations, even recognising the Khmer Rouge on their council. While the once great Khmer people find their feet once again, their plight is deservedly the guilt of the world.

We cannot let this happen again. In a time when the world is once again in conflict, we must remember that the consequences of war spread far wider and further into the future than any electoral term or generation.

See you soon,
Love and Peace Cyberhippies,
Jegar