martedì 17 gennaio 2012
One week in Cambodia
The red piano and The Angkor what? bar where I had very good food and good drinks. Otherwise for a cheaper option there is Psar Chaa the local market with food stalls where to choose food prepared on the spot and eat it in the streets. Foreign Correspondent Club or FCC a nice restaurant created originally for foreign journalists but open to everybody where I met a very nice guy from New Zealand. I then went to visit The Royal Palace, very nice and interesting and very similar to the one in Bangkok. When I was there, while i was in the shadow of a tree I was surrounded by a group of little children who started playing with me and reading my Lonely Planet guide. They were accompanied by two French fellow who explained to me that they belonged to an association called Pour un sourir d'enfant in which they volunteer to help and teach the poorest children of Cambodia. These kids were living in a damp and by that I mean a REAL one. I've seen them and I have seen poverty in that country. People living on tons of garbage and trying to get food out of plastic and rubbish which is everywhere . Check it out because it's a wonderful initiative. So is Friends a very pretty red and yellow restaurant where street children are employed as cooks, waiters and everything else. Killing Fields and to Tuol Sleng genocide museum. We all know what the Khmer Rouge regime was about and we all know of the genocide which took place between 1975-1979. Citing from Wikipedia "The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and eventually executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals. Ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Thai, ethnic Chinese (except for those already prominent among the Khmer Rouge themselves), ethnic Chams (Muslim Cambodians), Cambodian Christians, and the Buddhist monkhood were the demographic targets of persecution. As a result, Pol Pot is sometimes described as "the Hitler of Cambodia" and "a genocidal tyrant. According to Michael Vickery, 750,000 people in Cambodia in a population of about 8 million died due to disease, overwork, and political repression. However many scholars disregard his claims because the number of victims of execution found in the mass graves is higher than his estimate for deaths from all causes during the rule of the Khmer Rouge and the civil war combined. The most widely accepted estimate, from scholar Ben Kiernan, is that about 1.7 million people were killed. It is described by the Yale University Cambodian Genocide Program as, "one of the worst human tragedies of the last century.". And when you got to these sites you feel it all. Visiting Tuol Sleng was like a punch in the stomach : it was a former school which was turned into a prison for the ones who were believed to be against Pol Pot regime. It has remained the same as it was in those years even the offices are basically untouched. For some reason that schocked me the most because it made it real. I don't know why that happened: the cells or the torture chambers always gave me the feeling that although I knew it had happened it was something undefined. For me when I saw the the original telephones like the ones I had at home and the furniture from those years for some reason it made it all real and struck me as a punch in the face. I remember that there wasn't a sound amongst us visitors while we were visiting this site of pain, sorrow and cruelty. I noticed at some point a Cambodian woman with an American man in their late forties in the garden. She was crying her eyes out on his shoulder. I guess she was one of those lucky ones who escaped and probably had part of her family involved in the persecution. If you haven't seen it yet I strongly suggest to watch The Killing Fields movie a wonderful movie about that tragic period of time and also to read First they killed my father a book by Loung Ung a beautiful and heartbreaking description of that period by a "Daughter of Cambodia" who eventually escaped to the U.S. As I underlined in my previous posts about South Africa and Vietnam, when going to a country I don't think such things can be ignored but have to be seen not to be forgotten also as a matter of respect for the victims of such madness. Sometimes when travelling, people tend to forget about everything and just enjoy leisure. Well a real traveller can't. A real traveller has to acknowledge the good and the bad and the pain and sorrow from the past, the contempt against repression, war, torture, lack of freedom, violence,injustice and learn from past mistakes in order for those horrors not to happen again. And that actually should apply to both travellers and non travellers, but to thinking human beings with a coscience.I know it hurts but hey that's life.