Nov.6 – Day 17 – Today we have a full day ahead of us sightseeing.
We went to the National Museum of Fine Arts today and walked through many of the buildings. There are all manner if historical implements here. Clothing of the Emperors, photos and musical instruments fill the rooms. There are gifts from other nations and fine china displayed for all to see. The buildings still have the upturned roofs and remind us if Thailand.
The worlds finest collection of Khmer Sculpture is inside a terra cotta building made in the traditional design here also.
There are The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda to visit as well. The walls are highly decorated in the Silver Pagoda. The floors are made of solid silver tiles. There are statues and clothing from centuries ago to look at, but don’t touch. A giant Buddha stands in the middle of the room covered in diamonds. It is amazing.
After this tour, we arrive at the Toul Sleng Security Prison 521. It was a typical two story school wrapped around a courtyard. It was transformed into a torture site and prison under the Khmer Rouge. There are devices on display that were used to torture the poor souls who were chosen to end their days here. There were three or four people left alive here when the horrors ended. Two are still alive I believe, and one was here selling his book about those times.
There are photos of the victims in a large room. The larger rooms had crude, red, block rooms of perhaps five by eight feet built inside them where people were kept for months at a time.
None of this makes any sense. The intellectuals and the bureaucrats were the first to go to the prisons and the killing fields. It just was crazy and got worse over time. The Khmer Rouge destroyed the currency and the railroads instead of using a system that was already created. They went back a thousand years for some reason. Eventually they turned on each other and all were suspected of being against the regime. Ring any bells. Paranoia ran wild and people were killed for no reason. It makes no sense and to try and make it make sense is a waste of time. They were just evil.
This is what happens when a totalitarian government comes into power. History has shown us this over and over again. Our style of government is messy at times, and complicated. But don’t let dreams of a perfect system cloud your memory of the past. There is no perfect system. We must work within the bounds of democracy to fulfill our dreams of a better society. It takes time and there are no easy fixes.