Tuesday, 22 October 2013

friday 18th october - phnom phen

Another 4 hour bus trip. Everything here takes 4 hours, even when it doesn't.

This bus trip was much like the last but with less horn and a heavily cracked drivers windscreen that was being held from shattering by big blobs of glue at strategic points where the fracture lines changed direction. As we were sat at the front of the bus and my fresh laundry was rapidly depleteing, I decided to plug in some music, write a little and try to get some sleep.

we arrived in the Cambodian capital Phnom Phen around mid-day. In the afternoon there was an optional excursion to visit the Killing Fields which lay just outside the city, and the ex school turned security office (s21) where prisoners were held, interrogated, tortured and sometimes killed. Everybody took the trip.

Our guide, a young 21 year old showed an impressive recollection of facts and figures and explained graphically the atrocities that went on in these places, which I'm not going to go into here. The killing field area itself is now a memorial type garden, with exposed and unexposed pits, information boards and boxes displaying bones, recovered clothing and tools. When it rains here these reminants are still being uncovered, you are told this to warn you just in case.

It's a thought provoking and emotional place. The emotion I experienced, perhaps surprisingly, was anger about what had happened. I wasn't expecting that.

The S21 security office /detention centre lays back in the city, has pictures of some of the victims on the walls, more bones and tools used to convey the story of what went on. The place still felt like a school though which I found particularly chilling.

During the POLitical POTential regime, the population of Cambodia was nearly halved and whole towns lay emptied as people were forced from their homes. When the regime ended, amnesty was offered to people who had been responsible for the things that had happened during those times. Many of these now hold positions of power in the current corrupt  political system. How can things possibly change?

But changing they definitely are, the capital is a city under construction and the will of the people seems to be forcing things to open up, but these people are still scared to openly criticise their leaders, which is easy to understand given their recent history.

after the tour I took a walk for a few blocks to find a pharmacy as I needed to get some mosquito repellent. The one I found was owned and run by an older couple, probably mid seventies who spoke the same amount of English as I spoke Cambodian, thus began a game of dingbats with me doing my best mosquito impression complete with flying wing arm movements and pointy teeth hand in front of my mouth, how could it not work? It was good fun with laughter and involvement in the game from all 3 of us. This is the sort of experience that I will take with me from Cambodia, a country with an horrific past, but hopefully a bright future in front of it.

Now what do i do with these teeth clippers, fly swatter and nasal spray?

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