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Cambodia – looking genocide in the eye

Today was a heavy day for our small Avalon Siem Reap family as we visited the memorial site of the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh before heading out to the Khmer Rouge genocide center 8 miles out of town.

Words are hard to come by when faced with this scale of masterminded and deliberate destruction of human life. Pol pot and his regimecame to power in 1976 and in just under four years killed 1.7 million Cambodians. Today’s visits connected dots of my childhood (1977 Der Spiegel magazine cover) with our recent underground tour in Berlin (see my November 18 blog).

it seems to me that “killing in the name of an ideology” is an ever present phenomenon that repeats itself way too often despite all the horrific episodes witnessed over the millennia. In fact we are reminded of this lesson right now with the horrifying stories coming out of Myanmar just a few hundred miles to the north of our current location.

My heart feels heavy from the countless souls that perished as walk on these grounds. Through our guide Tek we learn of the boundless optimism rooted in collective reflection of these horrendous crimes that brought Cambodians together for a better future free of war. Helped by Buddhist teaching and the “win-win” process of reconciliation they set the stage to rebuild this country toward a better future.

The lesson to learn for all of us, I believe is quite simple though. “every one of us has a responsibility to guard against radical ideas and the victimization of any minority or group of people”. Only then can we assure this type of crime does not happen to us one day.

One thought on “Cambodia – looking genocide in the eye

  1. Working with my client opened my eyes to the horrors of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, but there is nothing like witnessing the horrors firsthand. Indeed, a very heavy day for you two and countless others.

    Thanks for sharing the pictures and your words.



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