Friday, March 19, 2010

In solitude

Only one intact skull remains at the memorial at Wat Kesararam in Siem Reap
Whenever I am in the vicinity, I visit the remaining genocide memorials in Cambodia, usually constructed just after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime at the end of the 1970s though many of these memorials have now virtually disappeared through neglect and disinterest amongst the local population. Only a handful are still cared for and remain the focus of annual ceremonies to remember the millions who died during the Pol Pot-led period. Often the memorials were erected after mass graves, which were to be found in nearly every district in the country, were dug up and the memorial stupas became the final resting place of the deceased. I have previously posted photographs from many of these memorials. Whilst I was in Siem Reap last week, I recalled a vague mention that Wat Kesararam, situated smack back in the middle of town on national road 6, had a small memorial. I was aware of the larger one at Wat Thmei, which I had visited many years before, but had not seen anything on a previous visit to Wat Kesararam. I posed the question to a couple of young monks on entering the pagoda compound and they pointed off into the distance, amongst a collection of burial stupas. A rickety wooden shrine was easy enough to find, though over time the collection of bones and skulls has obviously diminished and what remains today, is likely a fraction of what was in situ originally, judging by the fragments of skulls to be found. A group of workmen were sat next to the shrine, playing cards and looking at me quizzically, as I took some photos. The memorial doesn't even register on the original DC-Cam list of genocide memorials so I don't have any information as to where the deceased came from, numbers, and so on. I hope a future visit to the DC-Cam archives will enlighten me.
The simple wooden shrine amongst a collection of burial stupas at Wat Kesararam
The genocide memorial that remains today is likely a fraction of the original memorial
A wall painting at Wat Kesararam showing what happens to sinners

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