When I flew from capitol of Cambodia, Phnom Pen, to the town of Ban Loeng, lying in the east of Cambodia, it was with a simple aim in mind: I wanted to see the jungles where during the 1960´s a small group of young idealists forged their blueprint for one of the greatest acts of genocide ever committed…..
When I first visited Phnom Pen, it didn´t make a great impression on me.
The main tourist attractions – the Silver Pagoda, the Royal Palace on the Tonle Sap River, and the gruesome relics from the notorious reign of the Khymer Rouge (the S21 torture prison and the Chou Ek ‘killing fields’) could easily be seen in a day or two.
For the rest it just seemed like another sprawling, polluted Asian city.
On future visits, I changed my mind.
There was something unique about Phnom Pen which I liked but I didn´t know what.
Then one day it dawned on me…
The arrival of Khymer Rouge arrive in Pnom Pen in April 1975. This photo appeared in the international news services all over the world – afterwards, nothing was reported. Cambodia was cut off from the rest of the world for 4 years during which a paranoid, maniacal regime turned an entire nation into one big killing field.
One afternoon during one of my regular visits to Phnom Pen between the years 2004 – 2009, I sat in a cafe and watched film clips of the arrival of the Khmer Rouge into Phnom Pen. These were shot by French photographers who were still in Phnom Pen at the time and got out shortly afterwards. They had more luck than an Australian journalist who was captured and tortured to death.
In the city built by Sihanouk and Van Molyvann, I watched long lines of dour boy soldiers clad in the traditional black pyjamas worn by the peasants, marching through the streets carrying rocket launchers and automatic rifles…..