Today, January 7th, is the anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge almost 40 years ago. It is a felt sense of happiness as we hear the noise of local fireworks in the province of Takeo , where we have relocated to for the clinic week that starts tomorrow.
Fitting also, as we have been to the Killing fields of Choeung Ek where 17000 were tortured, murdered and buried after their interrogation at S-21, the prison at Toul Sleng (the high school turned prison camp-bottom photo) in Phnom Penh in the 70’s. I had no idea of the extent of the genocide of Pol Pot and his regime of 3 1/2 years, that murdered 2 million Cambodians in his quest to have a pure race. Horribly familiar
On such a brilliantly beautiful day riding in a Tuktuk through the rural countryside, stopping at a modest pagoda, eating clams baked in the sun from a woman’s cart (wondering if this will be the food that undoes my GI system) and realizing that the decimation of the city’s population being sent into these fields to be tortured was happening under my feet 40 years ago . Rhumduhl,one of the women traveling in our mission, fled Cambodia with her mother when she was 8. What little she has told us only highlights the trauma of refugee life. And while she is a delightful, generous, strikingly beautiful woman with a hearty laugh, she remembers. Now, she returns to her country to aid the mission, reunite with remaining family and share another life journey with her lovely daughter, Suphada. Their endearing presence and the mission we are about to embark on now seems softly perched upon a surface belying a deep, searing pain still felt by this impoverished nation.