I can not begin to understand the events that happened in Cambodia in the last 50 years. If you are unaware of the history of Cambodia, my husband and I have written a short summary:
Two million Cambodians were killed during the three years (1975 to 1979) Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge. Attempting to reset the kingdom to “Year Zero”, he systematically eradicated every form of his own culture. Educated citizens such as doctors and teachers were specifically targeted for execution. The Cambodians that survived were forced into slavery, imprisoned, or worse. Life slowed to a nightmarish crawl as writing and currency were banned, and even the concept of time itself was outlawed.
The painting below depicts the kind of evils that were common occurrences in Cambodian life during this time. The artist was a prisoner forced to paint the atrocities going on. It now hangs in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Originally a children’s school, Tuol Sleng was converted into a prison and execution facility.
So while Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was an attack from within, Cambodia also has a history of being attacked or invaded from almost every one of its neighbors throughout history. Thailand, Vietnam, China, and even the US have all attacked or invaded Cambodia at some point in time.
During the Vietnam war, 2,756,941 tons of American bombs were dropped on Cambodia alone. This means that more bombs were dropped on Cambodia by the US than those used by ALL countries involved in World War Two combined, making Cambodia the most heavily bombed country in history.
(War statistics courtesy of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University.)
For more pictures and to hear about my first experience visiting the Tuol Sleng, the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, visit an old post of mine.