Today was a full day in Phnom Penh. First we went to the Khoeung Ek killing field, one of hundreds of mass grave sites in Cambodia that were used as killing locations by the Khmer Rouge. Thousands of people were executed and buried at this site and around 3.2 million Cambodians lost their lives during the Khmer Rouge genocide. Next we went to an infamous prison and torture site called the S21 interrogation center. Here thousands of citizens were imprisoned and tortured until they confessed to crimes they didn't commit. Once they admitted their "crime" they were executed at the killing field. It is impossible to comprehend the reasoning behind the genocide which continued until Cambodia was liberated and occupied by the Vietnamese. It is equally hard to comprehend that some of the former Khmer Rouge leadership are today in powerful positions in the government. The morning visits were a chilling, somber experience.
In the afternoon we toured the National Museum where many of the stone and wood carvings recovered from temples at Siem Reap are displayed. In addition to the artifacts there was a beautiful, peaceful garden at the center of the museum. Finally we explored the Royal Palace were the King of Cambodia lives and where many of the ceremonial royal objects are displayed. Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy so the King has little, if any, power but his symbolic connection is revered by the Cambodian people.
After returning to our river barge we had a performance of traditional Aspara dance by a group of young people between 15 and 17 years old. They performed three different dances which depicted various parts of rural Cambodian life. The performance was very beautiful and professional.
Although we call this country Cambodia, to the people who live here it is called Kampuchia.
The weather today was a pleasant - 95 degrees and humidity around 80%.