Phnom Penh – and some Dark Places

We make our way from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.

On the way, we stop at a bus station serving up deep-fried crickets. With chillies. Mmmm.

A cricket a day keeps the doctor away

Phnom Penh, like other places we’ve been (Luang Prabang, Vientiane),  is on the Mekong river. We have several errands to accomplish before spending Christmas at the beach.

By the banks of the Mekong

(First warning – ’tis the Season to be Jolly and all that, but the rest of this entry is pretty bleak. You might want to stop reading now.)

After our chores are done, we go to a few of the obligatory dark places in Phnom Penh. One is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly known as S-21 prison, in what used to be a school.

No more pencils, no more books

This place is chilling beyond description. Very graphic and disturbing. We’re surprised that some people bring their children here. For little ones, we’re not sure if a lesson in Man’s Inhumanity to Man has to be this stark.

Later that day, went to this place, Choeung Ek, about 15 KMs south of Phnom Penh. After interrogation at S-21, 17,000 people were brought here, executed, and dumped into mass graves.

End of the line at Choeng Ek

Sight or Insight of the Day – Phnom Penh

(Warning: quasi-philosophical musings, part 2, follow!)

Samuel Johnson said:

‘A man is seldom more innocently occupied than when he is engaged in making money.’

…or something to that effect. Being an arch-capitalist, I tend to agree.  The Cocal Cola corporation doesn’t want to take over the world. It just wants to sell Coke in every country in the world. Their ability to short-change consumers or underpay workers is constrained.

On the other hand, the inhumanity and cruelty of those advancing a world-conquering religion or ideology – like the Khmer Rouge and their Marxist nightmare – is staggering. Bottomless. Without limit.

Teenagers and university students may pound the dinner table in a petulant frenzy and splutter ‘But what about the Victims of Capitalism?’

You can direct them here.

In the twentieth century alone, the victims of ideologues number in the tens of millions. Any time people begin to speak of the Shining City on the Hill,  the new Golden Age, the 1,000 Year Reich, be very afraid.

You end up with Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia. (Or ISIS, beheading their way into Allah’s grace, one journalist or aid worker at a time.)

You will end up abducted in the middle of the night with your family. Loaded into the back of a truck. Stuffed into freight cars. Tortured, murdered, and filling a mass grave somewhere or as a puff of smoke trailing out of a crematorium. You end up with this.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Of course, hard-core ideologues will squeal ‘Oh, but that was imperfectly-realized <insert ideology here>. Next time, we’ll get it right.’

Or historical relativists will bleat ‘We’re just as bad as this. What about <insert trifling human-rights infraction here>?’

They should try saying so standing in front of this tower of human skulls.

</quasi-philosophical musings, part 2>