The Killing Fields

by Andrew Stein

“Nothing should be this beautiful. The gods are playing tricks on us. How could they be so cruel and still make the sky so lovely? I want to destroy all the beautiful things.”

“The soldiers walked around the neighborhood, knocking on all the doors, telling people to leave. Those who refused were shot dead right on their doorsteps.”

The above two quotes are taken from “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” by Loung Ung, a book I read before visiting the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center outside of Phnom Penh. The first quote is from the chapter when Loung mourns her father and the second starts to exemplify the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 following the Vietnam War, and during their rule, between two and three million Cambodians were murdered at killing fields around the country. This group did not stop killing until the late 1990’s.

At Choeung Ek, I learned of some of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, from their horrendous methods of killing women and children to their eradicating anyone that was slightly educated and therefore posed a risk to the regime. This is a sad part of Cambodian history, and originally, I had not intended to visit the Killing Fields, but after reading this book by Loung Ung and seeing the Academy Award winning film “The Killing Fields”, I felt Cambodia needed to share its story in attempt to prevent anything like this from happening again here and hopefully everywhere.

Monument at Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

This monument hold the bones of many who were murdered at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields.