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Thrown into the tropical soup

CAMBODIA | Monday, 7 February 2011 | Views [577]

Tuk tuks are quite something! It was my first time in a tuk tuk, heading from the airport to the centre yesterday. You get thrown helplessly into the middle of the tropical soup and just hold on while they spin you round the corners into on coming traffic...:) it was good except for the fact it was rush hour!! It was an interesting way to see the city as we (me and 'Lucky', my tuktuk driver) pass through grimy poorer outskirts and into the centre with manicured garden aerobics outside the university.

I thought I could escape the jet lag by sleeping throughout the journey but it puts such a strain on the body, the worst I think, to my eyes. The in-flight air conditioning and non-stop food serving just dried them out completely. Eye drops are essential for long haul. 

I went to the Silver Pagoda and the Royal palace today, only it was closed for a state visit. So, an entreprenurial tuktuk driver took me to Tuol Sleng, the prison that the khmer rouge ran to interogate people. A former school, the prison was used to torture and hold people for questioning. If you entered there as a prisoner, you weren't going to leave! There were rooms with one bed, the frame of which had a pattern which resembled a sunset. As I walked around there I just kept repeating in my head, who does this? who are the people who held them here? Who could be so perverse as to torture another human being, stand to listen to the the cries of another and watch someone in so much pain and anguish? Then photograph it? There were photos of the prisoners during or after torture or just suffering alone in their room. Documented for the KR to use as 'evidence', to 'legitimise' their crimes. Just making them all the more perverse. Then, at the end of the photos and the stories of those who witnessed or had lived it, there were a few rooms lent to the stories of the people who were the guards, the torturers and the passive witnesses to the horrors that took place there. It was good to go as a few years ago during an exhibition of the photos that documented the prisoners, I read about what happened there. The photos informed me of the atrocities here but could not assist the comprehension of their suffering. Although I can experience the residue of their pain in the echoes made by the walls of the now, museum, still now I am glad I cannot fully comprehend their situation. That is what led me to learn more about Cambodia and now, subsequently, here I am.

Tags: hotel, khmer, prison, tuk tuk, tuol sleng

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