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A note from the photographer:
This is not a photographic exhibition as such, it's more of a message to try and create the feelings I experienced when I visited the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia. The Cambodian people were among the most friendly I have ever come across and it's difficult to believe that this could have ever happened in such a beautiful country. The pictures have been manipulated to dramatize the general appearance, this is not trying to be artistic, it's meant to shock!
Between 1975 and 1979, a Maoist inspired regime took over Cambodia, exterminating more than two million Cambodian citizens. The aim of the “Khmer Rouge” under the leadership of Pol Pot, was to evacuate the cities and create a peasant-dominated, agrarian population which was “easy to manipulate”.
Literally overnight, money became worthless. There were no shops, banks, and the
capital, Phnom Penh, with a population of 2.5 million people became a ghost town.
This was Cambodias "Year Zero". The evacuees were sent to the countryside to plant rice and hundreds of thousands died of malnutrition and disease, trying to produce crops on overcrowded and unfertile lands.
Most of the rice harvests were exchanged with China to reinforce the Khmer Rouge with more arms.
Children who were easy to brainwash, were used as the new Pol Pot recruits and the first lesson they learnt was to sever all family ties. Religion was abolished and the only guidance for the young soldiers was the “absolute” theory of the Pol Pot/Maoist beliefs and the heavy hand of their superiors. Any soldier with second thoughts was considered to be e traitor. Therefore, they did what they were ordered to do without pity or emotion.
Cambodia was the scene of probably the worst and most horrific atrocities known in history. The victims, considered to be a threat to the regime, were chosen without even the slightest research into the life and background of the supposed “enemy”. Classed as "parasites", teachers, doctors, scholars and even those who could speak a foreign language or wore glasses were assassinated along with their family. Even babies had their heads crushed against the side of a tree (most often in front of their parents soon before they too were executed). In some cases babies were used as a “pastime”, target practice for the soldiers, thrown into the air and shot like clay pigeons. Maybe they were the lucky ones... a quick death could be considered the “easy way out”. The majority just received a quick blow to the head with a bamboo stick, for many, this merely stunned them and they were later buried alive in mass graves.
“Killing Fields” were set up all over the country and the most shocking was at Choeung Ek near the capital Phnom Penh. Over 17,000 men women and children (including 9 westerners) were killed there, delivered from the Toul Sleng, S-21 detention center in the city center.
The political story of the Pol Pot regime is a complicated and sensitive subject due to the involvement of many well-known people from other countries, especially China and the USA. Even today many deny the involvement in Cambodian affairs and offer little to help Cambodia get back on it’s feet again. Today the country faces another threat; over 8 million land mines still remain buried in the countryside. Even though voluntary organizations help to remove these death traps, many men, women and children loose their life or limbs after accidentally stepping on a mine.
This “virtual message” doesn’t wish to demonstrate any political preferences, however, the facts are recent history and no one denies the horrific reality of the Khmer Rouge. My aim is to show to as many people as possible the forgotten truth about Cambodia and to act as a reminder that we humans are capable of committing the most atrocious deeds. There is no limit to cruelty when totally blinded by crazy theories that at first appear to be ideal. Extremism is dangerous and often, all too much a part of our world. When there is nothing left to lose, anything can happen. All too often, despair shows no pity or remorse.
Accept differences, learn from all races and cultures, protest in peace, respect and be respected.
Note: Information taken
from several internet sources.
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