After having been subjected to my life-changing reflections at the Tuol Sleng (S21) visit early in the day, I paused and prayed at the Choeung Ek Wat on my way to the infamous Killing Fields in Asia and that is in Choeung Ek in the Kingdom of Cambodia. So named “Killing Fields” by survivor Dith Pran, it is living museum where atrocities to humanity were forever paused for many around the world to come and reflect. The horrors of 1975-1979 years of the evil Pol Pot regime were mostly evident in the Killing Fields.
Nowadays, many tourists and backpackers around the world come to Choeung Ek to come to this memorial which stands time and perhaps learn more about what made Cambodia into what it is today. I understood Cambodia now more than ever, much more, felt her and embraced her and the entire Cambodian people because of what they had been forced to go through some 35 years ago. Million of Cambodians died and perished, families, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, siblings, children have died after a gruelling torture and rape. This particular trip is my final stop on my self-imposed reflection journey on Christmas day.
I have designed my itinerary around these sites for me to embrace humanity as everyone back home celebrates a joyous Christmas. I and my friend Lyna arrived in time and I paid $7 for the audio guide. Upon arriving at the Killing Fields as they say, I felt the sudden burst of raw emotion. If one was not to the Tuol Sleng (S21) Genocide Museum, one perhaps can never connect and relate to the horrors. For me, it is as if I took on the simulated trip of a prisoner from Tuol Sleng to Choeung Ek for execution, only for me, I stopped at the Wat to pray.
When the narrator started to explain the holy and sacred place called the “Killing Fields”, I started to walk along other tourists and backpackers, some were with me at Tuol Sleng. I was allowed my own personal time by my friend Lyna to walk around the entire complex on my own. He just patiently waited for me. I pass other numbered stations until I came across the Killer Tree which is the same place I felt my tears fell on the ground from my cheeks. The audio guide explained that the tree in front of me is where children and babies were killed by smashing their little heads on the tree, brains scattered on the trunk then they will be thrown off the open pit which serves as their mass grave.
I walk farther away, I saw bones, fragments of skull on the ground and were cordoned off by a rope reminding guest not to walk on mass graves. I also saw the Magic Tree where no magic was wielded but sheer cruelty and eerie music played on loud speakers to defuse the moans and cries of people dying and fighting for their lives.
The “Killing Fields” is a tragic community where men and women were reduced to nobody and whose physical body were subjected to so much pain, broken their spirit and left to rot. It may served as a memorial now however, the pains of the Cambodian people remain including that of the entire world where many have suffered after those evil years where Pol Pot ruled the country.
The last stop of the audio guided tour to the “Killing Fields” is the stupa which sits at the center of the complex. It is where hundreds of recovered skulls were placed meticulously on glass dividers and where visitors can come in and pray. I did went inside and prayed, took photos, said my prayers and left in peace.
The journey I took reduced me to tears and I was wiping it through which others can also gleaned. I silently bowed down my head and absorb their silence and their peace, seeing some in tears too. The first Christmas I cried was never home but where my heart felt at peace and it is at Choeung Ek. I never mind it was Christmas that I took the journey for it defines me my own humanity and strengthened in me resilience to see through every pain and challenge I will have to face while I live. The journey was entirely one that created in me the longing of a son to a father and a mother whom I lost already and felt their spirit too, abiding in me.