Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ba Chuc memories

The lasting memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge at Ba Chuc
1,700 skulls are classified by age and sex inside the glass-fronted memorial
The memorials in honour of those innocents slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge in the late Seventies aren't confined to the fields of Cambodia. In the sleepy village of Ba Chuc, a glass tomb, an ossuary or the bone pagoda of Phi Lai, as it is also called, stands as a reminder of the death and destruction visited upon this small village in April 1978. Of the village's population at that time of 3,159, only two people are known to have survived the massacre, one of a number of incursions into Vietnamese territory made by the Khmer Rouge forces along the nearby porous border that eventually goaded the Vietnam authorities into invading Cambodia, or Democratic Kampuchea as it was known, and driving the Khmer Rouge out of power. But that came too late for the inhabitants of Ba Chuc, some of whom were disemboweled, raped and decapitated as they sought refuge in the pagodas of Phi Lai and Tam Buu. Ba Chuc was one of five villages attacked by the invading killers, who burned and looted as they went, leaving four thousand dead in their wake. The hexagonal, glass-windowed memorial was erected in 1984. Inside, 1,700 skulls of the deceased are classified according to age and sex including one sign that poignantly reads 'Baby of Ba Chuc under 2 years old (29)'. Behind them, in the centre of the monument, a pile of bones are heaped up randomly, unclassified. There was a long line of people visiting, lighting incense and saying silent prayers as we walked around the stupa. The Ba Chuc memorial is not a quiet place when a coach party arrives. A few steps away, in a large room that is part of the Tam Buu pagoda, black and white photographs line the walls, detailing how the villagers met their gruesome deaths in the fields and buildings of the hamlet. Ba Chuc is firmly on the tourist map, as Choeung Ek is just outside of Phnom Penh and now that the roads in this part of the Mekong Delta are improving, more and more visitors are finding their way to the memorial, to learn more about the massacre that wiped out a whole village.
The Ba Chuc memorial was first constructed in 1984 to honour the deceased
The memorial is on three levels and is similar to the lower levels of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh
3,159 people were massacred in Ba Chuc village by the Khmer Rouge in 1978
The entry sign to Ba Chuc memorial
Photographs of the deceased line the walls of the exhibition room nearby the memorial
Interested Vietnamese tourists find out more about the Ba Chuc massacre
The display of photographs is inside this building next to the memorial

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