Killing Fields at Choeung Ek - review by Rusty Compass
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Killing Fields at Choeung Ek

| 14 Mar 2016


Killing Fields at Choeung Ek
15kms south of Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek Commune, Dangkor District
( 855) 23 880278
08.00AM - 05.00PM
US$6 includes audio tour

Our rating
14 Mar 2016

The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, around 15kms outside Phnom Penh, are where most of the victims of Tuol Sleng S21 prison were slaughtered and dumped in makeshift shallow graves. For many travellers, a visit to Choeung Ek completes a harrowing journey into a dark not so distant past in which 1.7 million Cambodians perished.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Most travellers combine a visit to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek with a vist to the former Khmer Rouge prison at Tuol Sleng in downtown Phnom Penh.

Some may find the Tuol Sleng account a powerful enough encounter with the horrors of the Khmer Rouge.

The award winning 1984 David Puttnam film, The Killing Fields, provided a ready made name for the human dumping grounds around Cambodia that are now known as Khmer Rouge Killing Fields.

The most famous of these are the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, around 15 kms from Phnom Penh.

Cambodia,Choeung Ek,Killing Fields,Phnom Penh
Photo: Mark BowyerKilling Fields memorial at Choeung Ek

It makes good sense to visit Tuol Sleng before heading to the Killing Fields as Tuol Sleng is both more profound and more informative than Choeung Ek. And be warned, like the Tuol Sleng Museum, a visit to Choeung Ek is distressing.

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered around 17,000 of their countrymen and women here between 1975 and 1979. A number of foreigners were also imprisoned at S21 and later murdered here.

The site now consists of shallow graves and a memorial to the victims that includes hundreds of skulls, many smashed by clubs in order to save bullets. Fragments of bone and clothing are still visible in the area.

A good audio tour has been added in recent years and is included in the ticket price.

The Khmer Rouge tyranny was characterised by ideological lunacy and extreme paranoia.  Cambodia’s educated class - doctors, professors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, linguists and others - were targeted with precision and few educated Cambodians survived the Khmer Rouge reign - a loss from which the country still suffers.

Cambodia,Choeung Ek,Killing Fields,Phnom Penh
Photo: Mark BowyerKilling Fields mass grave at Choeung Ek

As time passed, the regime became increasingly paranoid and began to turn on its own. Many of the victims of S-21 and Choeung Ek were themselves former Khmer Rouge.

The Killing Fields at Choeung Ek are now privately managed and while it is a tasteful memorial, there is something disconcerting about a commercial operation commemorating mass murder.

Travel tips:
Choeung Ek is 15kms and 30 - 40 minutes from Phnom Penh by car or tuk tuk. What was once a journey into rural Cambodia is now a dusty experience of the city's growing urban sprawl and traffic problems. You may be better off renting a car to avoid the dust.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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