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S21 Detention Center The history of the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields is forever tied into the history of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge consisted of followers of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in Cambodia and was linked to North Vietnam, the Viet Cong and Pathet Lao. From 1975 through 1979, the Khmer Rouge was the driving force behind the Cambodian Genocide, a period of time characterized by famine, arbitrary deaths and torture and the death of thousands of innocents from treatable diseases such as malaria. This period of time is considered to be one of the darkest and saddest periods of time in the 20th century.

The afternoon was a sad and sobering experience as we visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek followed by a tour of the S21 Detention Center. The S21 Detention Center is located just a mile from the center of Phnom Penh and was the largest facility used to torture prisoners. An estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned here. Prisoners were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates, who were in turn arrested, tortured and killed.

The Killing Fields There are a number of Killing Fields in Cambodia where large numbers of people were also killed and left in mass graves. During the Khmer Regime from 1975 to 1979 about 2 million people out a population of 7 million were killed by torture, starvation and disease. During this time the genocide within Cambodia was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. In 1979 Vietnam invaded and toppled the Khmer Rouge. Most of the Khmer Rouge were finally arrested. Pol Pot died in prison and one of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders is still on trial for his role in the atrocities.


Silk Weaving Village Our tour started this morning as we boarded Tuk-Tuks to visit a silk weaving village. A tuk-tuk is basically a four wheeled carriage that is pulled by a small motorcycle. It holds up to four people and is a great way to get around. Ouknhatey Village is located on a small island in the middle of the river and is made up of about 200 families.

In the village they harvest silk worms and the silk producing process begins. It takes about 47 days for the silk worms to mature and form cocoons. The cocoons are then boiled and the threads that make up the cocoons are pulled strand by strand and spun into silk threads. The threads are then colored by natural dyes before being woven into the silk fabric. Each part of the process is done by hand and the results are stunning.

Cambodian School Next we boarded the Tuk-Tuks and visited an elementary school. The school holds about 200 children with just the principal and two teachers. Most of the school supplies are donated as the community is quite poor. The students we visited ranged from 8 to 12 years old and were delightful. They were thrilled to have visitors and to show us what they were learning. They sang us some songs and practiced some of their basic English with us. After visiting the school we headed back to the ship so that we could set sail for Phnom Penh.


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