Sunday, November 16, 2008

750 victims remembered

A sightless skull peers out from inside the genocide stupa at Wat Kompong Tralach
En route to visit a couple of cave temples outside of Kampot and Kep last week, we called into Wat Kompong Tralach, a fairly typical pagoda along the road to Kompong Trach though this wat holds a reminder of the Khmer Rouge geonocide in the form of a stupa housing the remains of 750 victims of the Khmer Rouge regime of the 70s. Our tuk-tuk driver Pipi was the perfect guide as he had spent five years of his life as a monk at this very pagoda. In the south-east corner of the pagoda compound is a shabby-looking cement stupa with the remains of the disinterred victims arranged on two shelves inside, with skulls on one side and bones on the other. Pipi told me that a couple of mass graves had been discovered next to the wat and had been dug up in 1979. The wat's vihara had also been used as a prison and the walls of the pagoda were smeared with blood before it was repainted a few years earlier; "to scare away the ghosts" reported Pipi. It's believed that the bones of some 500 victims were brought to the stupa from another mass grave site at Prey Trapeang Sdao, a couple of kilometres away in the rice fields, where eleven graves had been uncovered immeditaely after the ousting of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. There are a couple of other memorials for victims in Kampot province, though on this trip I didn't have time to visit them.
The shabby-looking stupa at Wat Kompong Tralach
The victims bones are arranged onto two wooden shelves inside the stupa
Some of the skulls from the 750 victims of Wat Kompong Tralach and Prey Trapeang Sdao
The leg and arm bones of the victims at Wat Kompong Tralach
Skulls and money, left as offerings to the dead spirits of the victims
The renovated main vihara reflected in the large pond at Wat Kompong Tralach


Anonymous Anonymous said...

aren't you afraid all these skulls may come to haunt you and your dreams, maybe forever? alison

November 19, 2008 at 2:28 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Actually Alison you can count the number of dreams I remember having on 1 hand. When I go to sleep, I sleep.
I appreciate that photos of skulls and visiting genocide memorials isn't everyone's cup of tea, but these are important reminders in my view of a period of history that Cambodia still has to come to terms with. Each one of these skulls and bones tangibly represents a person, a real human being that died during that frightful time and each one of them deserves that we remember them in some way. If my visiting a memorial and posting some photos helps in some small way then I'm happy for that. These memorials are in many corners of Cambodia and I want to visit them before they all disappear. Few people care for them any longer and I'm afraid that as the years tick by, fewer and fewer people pay any attention to these memorials, that's why many are in such poor condition. If it was up to me I would want them to be repaired and kept as a lasting memory of the hundreds of thousands who died. Each one of those people deserves that memory.

November 19, 2008 at 11:26 AM  

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