Posts tagged ‘Genocide’
When I was in grammar school, in a land I did not know, a horror overcame an entire country called Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was the political party that won a revolution and their leader Pol Pot began a harsh rule to cleanse an entire nation. In four years he would be responsible for the deaths of two to three million of his own people. More than a quarter of his countries population.
Anyone who was educated or appeared educated were especially vulnerable. Schools and places of worship were closed and many in these institutions were executed. Teachers, monks, artists, doctors, business men and those with “soft hands” or who wore glasses, giving the appearance of being educated, were especially vulnerable. Children were executed with the parents because Pol Pot did not want the children to grow up with revenge against the government in their heart.
Complete cities were evacuated to camps to work in the field since city dwellers were also a root of evil. Families were separated.
Peasants from the country were Pol Pot’s heroes. However, even the peasants were treated harshly. People did not have enough food. The only religion the people needed was the new government.
As I walked up the steps at S21, a high school that was turned into an interrogation center and prison, my mind flashed to when I was a principal walking up the steps of our high school. As I walked the stairs, I thought about the principal and the teachers who worked here. ‘Did they live long enough to see what the new government would do to their students…their colleagues? Could they do anything at all before dying? How can anyone do this to children?’ As I walked from classroom to classroom little was left to the imagination as photographs of the executed were hung about. Pot instructed, “Better to kill an innocent then let an enemy survive.”
People were interrogated and tortured for hours everyday. They pulled out their finger nails from their hands, used electric shock, beat, hung them upside down and dunked them into water and cut them open with tools that should be used only for farm work.
Officials hauled truckloads of their countrymen to be executed in killing field locations all over this country. At times the victims would have to dig their own grave pits before they were knelt down beside the pit and executed.
In addition to S21, I visited one of the killing fields. After going to Rwanda just a few months ago I was going to bypass this place. I was not sure if my heart could bear witness to another genocide of a people. However, I believe that it is important that we visit, talk and write about these things so that the unthinkable never happens again.
Final Thoughts to Consider–
After Khmer Rouge was driven out by the Vietnamese in 1979, rescuing the people from this hell, the ousted government was still recognize by the UN and many western governments for years. Many governments, including the United States, continued to financially support the Khmer Rouge which had fled into hiding. As I am here in Cambodia, I wonder how our western governments pick winners and losers in these third world countries. I also encourage you to consider:
1) Why our governments are more interested in helping people who are experiencing genocide and crimes against humanity when those people live on a land with great natural resource?
2) When our government choses a side, how do we know they have chosen correctly?
Before leaving Rwanda, we stopped at the Kigali Memorial Center which remembers the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda that came to a head in 1994 when over 800,000 people were killed in three months. The memorial explains how the social environment became possible for a mass killing, the roles different events play in creating an environment that allows for such horror, the international community that turned it back on a massacre of people, the heroes that fought for life and a section of the memorial told of genocide that occurred from other locations in the the world. The memorial called on those present to know the signs and stand up against such future atrocities but most importantly the memorial gave voice and a final resting place of honor to those lost. As I walked outside, I saw the mass graves of the genocide and saw the pictures of those known to lose their lives during this horror. The memorial told of the suffering inflected before death as many people were raped and tortured. They are still finding bones from the genocide and adding names to the lists. Since entire families were killed there was not someone living to account for some. So the bones of the genocide are still being discovered and brought here. A banner on a flower memorial reads, “GENOCIDE NEVER AGAIN” on one of the graves.
My driver guide waited outside while I toured the genocide memorial. After an hour and a half I returned to the vehicle. I put on my seatbelt and said, “Have you went inside there.” “Yes, once…….That was enough.” I knew exactly what he meant. We sat in quiet as he starts down the road. “You know us, guides, like to take our guests here first so that they leave with remembering the gorilla’s.” “It’s okay, I won’t forget the gorilla’s…….That is a very powerful place.” “Yes, it is.” Beam replies. “You know I think there are some leaders in our world that need to see that.” Beam agrees with me and we drive on.