Visit the killing fields – Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Warning – Explicit material.

The Choeung Ek region, also known as: “the killing fields” is a mass grave area where the remains of the victims of the Cambodian genocide lie. Under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge communist regime, from 1975 to 1978, 1,7 million Cambodians lost their lives. Prisoners of the S-21 prison were brought to the killing fields to be killed in gruesome ways as well as people that were too weak to work in the fields for the Khmer Rouge. For more history on the civil war, we refer to our blog on the S-21 prison. You can find the S-21 prison blog here.

The killing fields

The actual area of mass graves is huge and located between the trees. Human remains can actually still be seen at the area, sticking out of the ground or draped across trees.

Picture: Tree with clothing remains still stuck to it Picture: One of the mass graves of the killing fields

With the guided audio tour device you will get at the entrance, you can walk around the area at your own pace, to let the surroundings and the history that goes with it, sink in.

The executions

If a person was executed, the person’s family was usually executed immediately as well. The Khmer Rouge was afraid that if they let the children live, they would come back and take revenge when they were older. Infants were usually beaten to death against a tree. Bullets were found too expensive. It is said that adults were usually forced to kneel down beside a massive hole, blindfolded and tied up, and were beaten to death with sticks or guns. After the act, the bodies could easily be disposed, in the mass graves. Bleeding to death was also an often used method.

Picture: the execution tree

At the site, many sculls of the genocide victims have been displayed in glass boxes.

Picture: Remains of Cambodian genocidal victims 

All in all, when you visit the killing fields, it will definitely impact you in some way.

Practical information 

  • Admission fee Choeung Ek killing fields genocidal center amounts up to 6 USD.
  • The Choeung Ek genocidal center is typically open from 08:30 AM to 17:30 PM.
  • Along with your admission ticket, an audio tour device is provided, which is pretty good. Available in different languages.
  • Each year, a memorial takes place at the center on the 9 th of May.
  • Before going to the site, the movie “the killing fields” is recommended to watch (1984, awarded with 3 Oscar’s), covering the story of a man called: Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist.

How to get there

The killing fields are located approximately 7,5 km towards the south from Phnom Penh. From Phnom Penh center, you can either take a taxi or a Tuk-Tuk. If you go by Tuk-Tuk, it is advised to bring a scarf to cover your mouth as some roads are quite dusty.

Alternatively, a Hop on hop off- bus circles Phnom Penh, and should stop at both sites. The cost for the bus should be around 15 USD. To visit the hop on hop off-bus website for Phnom Penh, click here.

I don’t want to go HOME, but okay