Geeze, where to start? The past two days have been a whirlwind of experiences that have astounded me to no end. I'm sure that I've forgotten wonderful things that I should tell everyone about already. So, where to start? Bad news first.
Our guide book mentioned that the motobike drivers outside the hotel we stayed at often speak really good English and give great tours of the surrounding areas. Two of them gave us a free ride from the bus station to the hotel, so we signed up for an afternoon trip. Best. Idea. Ever.
I don't really know how to effectively portray their stories in flowery language. The grisly facts should speak for themselves.
Both guides spoke fantastic English. Sadly, both guides learned English in refugee camps in Thailand. Thanks, Khmer Rouge.
The first guide was about our age and he was born in the Refugee camps. His parents fled Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge were coming to power. His family came back in 1993. He'd like to go to school so he can teach English, but it costs too much right now for him to afford it.
The second guide must have been around 50, and he lived in Phnom Penh before the Khmer Rouge came to power there. His parents and his uncle were in the army the Khmer Rouge defeated and they were killed when his house was surrounded at night. His younger brother and sister were away that night and he had to tell them what happened when they came back the next day. Imagine being 16, scared shitless, and having to explain to your younger siblings that your parents and uncle were taken outside and shot.
This horror story doesn't end there as he was put to work in the fields outside Phnom Penh. His remaining family, like all the others, were split up all over Cambodia like slaves. He saw his friends die of malaria. His work unit lost 50% of it's people to starvation and random killings by the guards over three years. Fuck you, Khmer Rouge.
At one point, he said, his skin was so dry and he was so sick that he got up from his rice mat in the morning to see all the skin from his back and arm stick to the mat and peel off like a snake shedding its skin. The only reason he survived at all was that he got sick enough to be put in to a hospital (of sorts) and the doctor turned out to have grown up in the same town as his uncle and so he got slipped actual meals at night.
This story he tells us while we are walking around a monument full of hundreds of human skulls and bones. Fuck you, Khmer Rouge.
He also tells us that only half of the youth of Cambodia believe the old-timers that the Khmer Rouge existed or committed all these atrocities. History from 1975 to 1979 just isn't taught. You'd think this would be a very important lesson for all of Cambodia, of the horrors of the past and how to avoid it. But, like any severely corrupt country, all the leaders of the deposed regime still are in power.
Hun Sen, the current PM of Cambodia was a former commander in the Khmer Rouge. The former number 3 in the Khmer Rouge, who married Pol Pot's sister, is the minister of social programs. And the list goes on. Naturally these men are guilty of crimes against humanity a la Nuremburg. Naturally they remove any mention of the atrocities in all the history books and lessons. Fuck You, Khmer Rouge.
And today, on our second day out motobiking with these two guides we meet a primary school teacher of 22 years that has been studying English and wants to practice with us. We ask him what he teaches his students about what happened between 1975 and 1979. We ask many different ways to make sure he understands since his English isn't perfect. His only response "I don't know". He didn't even know what the Khmer Rouge was.
The older guide of ours was some of the most fun of any tour guides we've had. Talkative, informed (voice of america radio), and lighthearted. Like every single Khmer we've met he had a saintly calm about him considering what they've been through as a people.
Fuck You, Khmer Rouge.