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The Killing Field
By 
Nick Walton
 
Andy and I cruised along the dirt roads. I had my sunglasses planted firmly on my face and even managed to pull a spare pair from my bag for Andy as the dust swirled around us. This looked almost like a street at home except for the condition of everything. Tall oaks swayed in the humid winds and often the better route was around the pedestrian side of these huge natural barriers, rather than taking on the trucks and potholes of the road. Slowly though, we left all homes behind and there was an air of sadness everywhere, although I could not see any indication that we had arrived at the former picnic park, turned nightmare. We skidded to a halt in front of three men. They looked at me with little interest until I told them I was from New Zealand. Apparently one of them knew someone in Auckland. Another figure gently swung on a hammock in the shade of a tree behind. The three 'guides' sat at a fold out trestle and pulled water bottles from an ancient icebox underneath. They let me pass for a couple of US dollars and Andy and I walked towards a tall white temple.

I am not sure what I was expecting, maybe footage from a Ripley's Believe it or Not series, bodies heaped everywhere, their souls desperation to be remembered, preserving them. Instead, all I could see was grass, trees and a dusty field, where I imagined children once played soccer. But as we approached the white temple with it's ornate roofing and gilding, I realized there was much more. Shelf upon shelf of bleached white skulls, many with large holes telling of terrible fates, stared at me. I was informed by Andy that the skulls were the only parts left of the nearly 9000 bodies found in this particular site, the rest having been burnt off by UN workers and the new government.

Moving on from the temple, the only memorial at the site, I saw what looked like a pa site back home in New Zealand. Almost like the little pits that I played in as a child, on the banks of One Tree Hill, there were small hollows spread across a wide area. Andy told me that these were the mass graves. I had listened to the BBC since I was tiny, and I had heard about genocide, and mass execution, even heard of the Cambodia that I was delving into now, but never did I think that I would find myself up close and personal with this kind of inhumanity. Grass had been allowed to grow into the depressions, but you could sense the loss, especially when you felt chills as you passed under a shadow of one of the large trees in the field. One grave had held 450 people, according to a sign. Andy told me that they had been women and children who had been killed with hammers to save bullets.

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Contact Nick Walton: Saltonnz@yahoo.com (Nick Walton) 

Nick Walton is a Newzealander who has lived and studied in Aukland New Zealand and Sydney Australia.  Besides being captain of the tennis team and a avid tennis player, Nick has a passion for writing, travel, and public relations.  He started his career by tackling some difficult subjects like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia which we learned about while visiting a high school in Viet Nam.  (More about this writer.)

 

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