When the horrible USA-Vietnam war finally was over and the Vietnamese had beaten the superpower, it was like the whole region of South East Asia fell into a deep silence and almost total isolation. This part of the world, having filled the media with more and more painful images and news, simply fell off the western radar screen. Enough was enough. This war had divided nations and families and had shaped the political direction of whole generations. But fatigue grabbed the souls of the many.
Cambodia, having suffered a hell of American bombing and with battle fields on its own territory, was now up for a much darker and deeper hell. The corrupt regime of Lun Nol in Cambodia collapsed with the defeat of USA, and a young man stepped forward in 1975 to lead the country in a new direction. He went under the name Pol Pot, he never made any public appearance in his life, he came from a very simple background and assembled young people with no education from the country side and shaped them into an army of Khmer Rouge – Red Khmer soldiers.
S 21 Prison in Phnom Penh
Pol Pot was deeply impressed with Mao tse Tung, and had developed a sick hate towards all rich, intellectual and successful people in his own country.
He started out by emptying Phnom Penh, forcing the population into the country side. Then he started a genocide without comparison after the Second World War. It was enough to have glasses, or soft hands or being dressed in a suit, and you were marked as an enemy of the new society.
These are some of the top Pol Pot leaders charged of crimes against humanity and genocide and now being tried at court
People were arrested, tortured in the most brutal ways and forced to confess whatever Pol Pot wanted them to confess, and when they signed their confessions, they signed their own death sentences. They were just taken down to the grown floor and executed.
Above photo of young Khmer Rouge or Red Khmer soldiers, young and enthusiastic. They were manipulated into a game of massmurder, and after a while the prisons became overcrowded by tortured prisoners and there was no capacity to kill them in the right speed.
This was the introduction of the Killing Fields in Cambodia. I visited both the S 21 prison and the Killing Fields called Choking Ek. Only in this single place where I was, more than 300 people were murdered every day for four years, 1975-79.
Photos of Red Khmer soldiers from the museum.
They were eventually driven away from mainland Cambodia in 1979, but were active in the jungle area close to the border to Thailand all the way till 1999.
Below you can see the real Killing Fields, the holes in the field are mass graves where around 20 000 dead are buried. This is only one of a high number of Killing Fields where the Cambodian population was killed, not by guns and bullets, but with all kinds of rudimentary weapons like hatches, spades, axes and agricultural tools of all kinds.
Nobody knew about the mass murders, the boarders were closed with land mines and no scream of help was ever heard. When the Vietnamese army finally invaded Pol Pot and forced him into the jungle, 3,5 million Cambodians had been killed in cold blood, almost every second of the population.
Still the western powers were under the spell of the establishment’s fear of Communism and rejected to accept the truth. The Vietnamese were blamed for unlawful interference with Cambodia.
In the tower above the sculls and bones from opened mass graves from the Killing Field called Choueng Ek are kept. I do not want to show you any photo of them.
Pol Pot continued to receive financial support and political recognition from the West. Red Khmer even got a seat at the UN until 1999. This probably worst of all war criminals after the Second World War died in peace 84 years old.
Chum Mey was one of only 12 confirmed survivors from the prison S 21, the centre of hundreds of murder prisons in Cambodia, located downtown in Phnom Pen, in a former high school, after 4 years of Pol Pot terror regime. His story is absolutely amazing. He was tortured as all other prisoners, tied to an iron bed in the S 21 prison that you can see in the above photos. All of a sudden his torturer asked him if he was able to repair a type writing machine. Chum Mey was a skilled mechanics and was able to quickly repair the type writer. This coincident made him survive because he was given a job as a repair man in the prison.
Here an amazing photo of Ingunn and Chum Mey with his book on his survival from Pol Pot’s terror regime.