When I got to Cambodia I immediately read the book “First They Killed My Father”. I bought it from a man on the streets who had no arms or legs. That was the norm over there. A lot of people had run into landmines in the recent past that had destroyed their bodies. The book was about a girl who came from a well-to-do family and was forced out of her home in Phnom Penh. It goes on to explain the history of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79) and how their leader Pol Pot led a genocide that destroyed most of Cambodia and the lives of those who lived there at the time. During these years about a quarter (2 million) of the population was killed.
Going to the killing fields was the saddest place I had ever seen. Walking through a place where you have the chills the entire time and don’t want to say a word because anything you say will be wrong. I listened to an audio background while learning about what happened and how the people were killed. The part that hit me the hardest was that there was an alter of skulls, you could still see people’s teeth in the dirt, and they would kill babies by bashing them into trees. I had no idea that this had happened not even forty years earlier. I took no photos because I didn’t feel comfortable taking out a camera.
“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it.”
-Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father
To read more about the history of the Khmer Rouge and how it effected Cambodia click here.