Monday, February 15, 2010

Genocide. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

While many children in North America and Europe beg their parents for the latest video game or iphone, many children in Phnom Penh beg anyone who will listen for water and food. Of course they ask for money first but if monetary hand-outs don't appear it is followed up with a request for water or food. The poverty in Phnom Penh cannot go unoticed and is impossible to ignore.
We explored the killing fields and the S-21 Prison. These two historical sights have been preserved to serve as reminders of the atrocities that Cambodia's people suffered through during the Kmer Rouge Communist regime. The country is still rebuilding and healing from this recent genocide that wiped out 25% of the population and only came to an end in 1979. Under the Kmer Rouge Communist regime religion, money, education, culture and city life were outlawed while peasant lifestyles and farming were forced on the people. "The Kmer Rouge shattered families and homes, destroyed financial, educations, religious, cultural and political institutions" (Olivia Ataras & Sarah Jones Dickens). There was widespread famine across the nation. Educated citizens were tortured and killed, along with anyone who was suspected of being a traitor. Their children were not spared.
Today, Cambodia has a very young population as most of the elderly did not survive the Indo-china War or the Kmer Rouge Communist genocide that immediately followed it. Imagine an entire nation almost completely devoid of grandparents? Studies suggest that most of the people in Cambodia are suffering with post tramatic stress disorders after surviving the genocide or being forced to participate in it's brutalities either as child soldiers or prison guards. The country is also teeming with children living on the streets or in orphanages. "The Kmer Rouge left behind a vastly uneducated and unskilled society, a displaced, diasporic and traumatized nation: a population of seventy percent women, widowed from the regime: and a country riddled with landmines that ceven today continue to maim and kill" (Olivia Ataras & Sarah Jones Dickens). Today, the Cambodian government is democratic. However, as one man told me, many of the figureheads in power still have a communist mentality and there is coruption.

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