The history of the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields is forever tied into the history of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge consisted of followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia and was linked to North Vietnam, the Viet Cong and Pathet Lao. From 1975 through 1979, the Khmer Rouge was the driving force behind the Cambodian Genocide, a period of time characterized by famine, arbitrary deaths and torture and the death of thousands of innocents from treatable diseases such as malaria. This period of time is considered to be one of the darkest and saddest periods of time in the 20th century.
The afternoon was a sad and sobering experience as we visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek followed by a tour of the S21 Detention Center. The S21 Detention Center is located just a mile from the center of Phnom Penh and was the largest facility used to torture prisoners. An estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned here. Prisoners were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed.
There are a number of Killing Fields in Cambodia where large numbers of people were also killed and left in mass graves. During the Khmer Regime from 1975 to 1979 about 2 million people out a population of 7 million were killed by torture, starvation and disease. During this time the genocide within Cambodia was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. In 1979 Vietnam invaded and toppled the Khmer Rouge. Most of the Khmer Rouge were finally arrested. Pol Pot died in prison and one of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders is still on trial for his role in the atrocities.