Phnom Penh: The Khmer Rouge

Matt and I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum today, at the site of S-21, one of the secret prisons during the Khmer Rouge’s reign.

The Khmer Rouge was in power between 1975 to 1979. During that time, almost one-quarter of the Cambodian population were either murdered (‘perceived’ supporters of the enemy, scholars, non-Khmer ethnic groups), or died from starvation or fatigue, due to the Khmer Rouge’s strict regime and poor economic policies.

It was a very moving experience. We purchased the audio tour and walked through the exhibits with a Khmer person telling us (in English) the story of what happened. We spent about three hours there. It gave us a greater understanding of and respect for the Khmer people.

After that, we were lucky enough to do a tour with some locals – Matt’s colleague Thida (who grew up in Cambodia and moved to NZ 20 years ago) and D (a local). We visited Wat Phnom, a Bhuddist/Taoist temple where D gave us incense sticks and Thida told us to make a wish – although not fitting within my belief system, it felt timely after all that we’d heard in the morning…

We also visited a local restaurant where I tried a local delicacy of fertilised duck egg. It was tasty, if I didn’t think about or look at what I was consuming. It tasted a bit like chicken liver. You could see the feathers of the baby duck which put me off a bit. I didn’t manage to finish it.

We feel really lucky to have been able to spend that time with Thida and D and it was great to learn more from them about Khmer culture.