Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Phnom Penh and the Killing Fields

Today's "highlight" was a tour of one of Pol Pot's prisons, followed by a visit to the killing fields.

We started the day with a tour of the palace - Cambodia still has a constitutional monarchy, meaning that there is a king who has limited power. As you can see above, the palace is quite nice, if lacking the opulence of Buckingham.

After the palace, we visited one of the notorious prisons of the Pol Pot regime where Cambodians were tortured and killed. There were only seven survivors of the prison, in fact, one of whom comes to the prison everyday in memory of his comrades and we saw him sitting on a bench under a tree. Below is our guide describing life in the prison.
Then, we visited one of the numerous places were Cambodians were murdered by the Khymer Rouge in the notorious killing fields. Nearly two million Cambodians were killed - an astonishing number under any circumstances, but even more shocking when you realize that the entire population of this country is only about 14million. What is remarkable is how few old people you see on the streets.

What is really shocking is not just the fact that these horrific acts were fratricidal, but it seems so contrary to the nature of the Cambodians we are meeting. Uniformly, they are extraordinarily friendly, outgoing, even sweet. We even offered to take out waitress to the U.S. with us in a suitcase, she was so incredibly adorable. Of course, we are hardly seeing a representative sample of the country, but it is still difficult to understand.
After the killing fields, we went on a cruise of the Mekong River.

Tomorrow, our final two professional meetings, then our farewell dinner.

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