In which I share a few of my thoughts on the Killing Fields visit

On our second full day in Phnom Penh,  we went to the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields. Eric and HappyFrog have written excellent posts about our visits there, so I will only add on a few thoughts of my own. I, too, was of course horrified. Not only by what we saw, not only by what happened, but also because unlike the Holocaust this tragedy is not nearly as well known though is similar in terms of pain and loss of human life. I was also struck by how recent it all is. We’ve spoken to a few Cambodian people here who speak English – our guide at the museum, a taxi driver, and our tour guide, all of whom tell of their family’s history with the Khmer Rouge. Everyone here has lost people, everyone here has a story to tell. It was only forty years ago that the regime ruled Cambodia, and the people who were young during that time are only now middle aged adults. 
The audio tour at the Killing Fields gives you perspective of this, with survivors telling their tale of how they survived. Some ran to the borders and were able to flee. Our taxi driver’s father had been born as a child of farmers, so even though he was a doctor when the regime took over, he was able to do the work and “pass” for a rural farmer and thus avoid imprisonment and death. One of the survivors of the Tuol Sleng prison was on a truck with his wife and infant child to the Killing Fields. The truck had to stop and somehow he and his wife were able to run, she with the child in her arms. She was struck, and the baby fell to the ground, still crying, but in that moment he could only think to flee. He lives with the guilt of leaving his child. Most of the soldiers of the Khmer Rouge were no more than teens at the time, either brainwashed by them or forced into service because if you didn’t comply, you were dead yourself. These young soldiers have not been persecuted, instead our guide told us that they are to be forgiven for their heinous acts and considered as victims themselves. She also told us that almost all people of that time have significant psychiatric issues related to the trauma. 
I wonder, how as a people and a country do you heal after a time like this?

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