Similar to learning about the Secret War, I was humbled and shocked by my experiences at the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng prison (S-21) in Phnom Penh. It was a very heavy day, starting with the audio tour at the Killing Fields and then an extremely informative and thorough presentation at the prison. It’s nearly impossible to comprehend how a few fearful, ignorant people can nearly wipe out the educational and cultural lives of an entire nation, not to mention murdering nearly two million innocent people, including infant children.
As is mentioned in the audio guide, though, Cambodia’s story is not too much different from that of the Native Americans in the United States, the Jews and other persecuted groups during World War II, Pinochet’s victims in Chile, and countless other tragedies that have affected the globe. It’s so important to understand how these situations came about so we can try to prevent them from happening in the future.
Most shocking about the visits was learning that the surviving perpetrators of these crimes against humanity and war crimes have not even been brought to justice. Their trial ended in late 2013 and a verdict is still pending.