The Killing Fields Were Inevitable
(1. What were the happenings proceeding the event of the Killing Fields?) During the last three decades, Cambodia has suffered through war, political disorder and genocide. On April 17th 1975 after winning the civil war, the Khmer Rouge gained the control of the Phnom Penh. This communist guerrilla group led by Pol Pot would cause unimaginable devastation and misery throughout Cambodia for the next three years, eight months and twenty days. The Khmer Rouge forced the people of Cambodia to the countryside and to labor camps. Families were separated, children taken away from their parents. Former city residents would become subject to unending political bombardment and brainwashing. The children were even encouraged to spy on adults, including their parents. Fifteen kilometres outside of Phnom Penh an extermination centre known as the Choeung Ek, or the ‘Killing Fields’, would become a mass grave the size of a soccer field for the many that were killed during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Throughout the reign of Pol Pot, many modifications and rules were put in place to validate his communist ideology becoming a reality in Cambodia. These changes caused 1.5 to 3 million people to die from starvation, disease, exposure, by being overworked or were executed for committing crimes. Crimes punishable by death included, not working hard enough, complaining about living conditions, collecting or stealing food for personal consumption, wearing jewellery, engaging in sexual relations, grieving the loss of a family member or friend and expressing religious views. Foreigners were also banished from the country, embassies were closed and currency was abolished. Markets, schools, newspapers, religious practices and private property were all forbidden. To confirm his system to work, members of the government, public servants, police, military officers, teachers, Christian preachers, Muslim leaders, members of the middle-class and the educated were identified and killed. Pol Pot took control of a high-school located in Phnom Penh and transformed it into a prison, torture and interrogation centre known as Security Prison 21 (S-21), only one of the 167 prisons throughout Cambodia. This prison would be in use from mid-1975 through to the end of 1978. Many precautions were taken to ensure the chance for escape to be impossible. The former school was enclosed with corrugated iron sheets covered in electrical wire; windows were secured with iron bars covered in tangles barbed wire. The classrooms were converted into tiny prison cells for individual prisoners as well as larger mass cells. Houses around the school area were modified to become rooms for administration, interrogation and torture. Several torture tools were cruelly used against the Cambodians including, hammers, pincers and electric cable. There were around 1,720 workers controlling the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh. Most of these workers being Cambodian boys and girls from peasant backgrounds ranging from ten to nineteen years old. These young men and women were trained to become guards and interrogators to their own people. The prisoners varied from Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, British and American nationals, but the majority of those imprisoned in S-21 were Cambodians. Civilians were also taken as prisoners if they had any kind of education, doctors, professors, students, politicians etc. Prisoners held in S-21 were tortured until they confessed to any crimes their captors accused them of before being taken to the Killing Fields to be brutally executed. Ways of forcing the confession from the prisoners included routine torture sessions, electric shocks, hot metal instruments, hanging, pulling out fingernails while pouring alcohol on their wounds or holding the prisoner’s head under water. The actions...