The Killings Fields in Phnom Penh was that place for this trip. It was one of the most moving experiences I've had, but it was also horrifying, depressing, shocking and many other adjectives that I still can't explain several months later.
The Killing Fields are something that are generally completely skipped over in history classes, at least in my experience with school, but it's so important to know about. The Khmer Rouge killed approximately 20-40% of the entire Cambodian population in just four years. The estimates range from about 1.8 million to 3.5 million people out of a population of 8 million people. They will never know the exact number since the majority of people were buried in mass graves.
I read a couple books before my trip to prepare myself, but actually visiting one of the sites is so much more difficult and sobering than you can imagine.
The genocide took place between 1975 and 1979. Prosecution of the individuals involved didn't begin until 2006. 2006!! Almost 30 years later. That is unbelievable to me, but unfortunately it's what happened and it hasn't been the only time.
This website goes into a lot more detail about this specific Killing Fields, as well as the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Blue: Evidence of killing by iron tool.
Yellow: Evidence of killing by hoe.
Green: Evidence of killing by axe.
Purple: Evidence of killing by hook knife.
Orange: Evidence of neck cutting.
Bright blue: Evidence of ear cutting.
There were far too many bodies in the mass graves to be able to identify them. Entire families disappeared and we will never know. It is absolutely heartbreaking. It's amazing that the country survived. Everyone you meet who's above a certain age was affected by the genocide. They all had family members who died. Most of them had multiple family members who died. This is one of those places where it seems like tourists shouldn't be allowed. But at the same time, it's important to visit those places. To remember the people who died. To remember that these events have happened in recent history and are still happening today.