Friday, August 5, 2011


Lazy Sunday in Phnom Penh

Last Sunday was perfect for a lazy day in Phnom Penh. After three weeks of working, sightseeing, going out as a team and in smaller groups, staying home was a good choice, even more so as rain was pouring down heavily in the morning.

The daily routine of starting the day around 6 a.m. took its toll though. Sleeping in doesn’t work when the body is programmed to get up early. Having a long breakfast with bacon, eggs and fresh juices was nice though, as was catching up on papers, e-mails, photos and blog posts over a cup of coffee at the “home office”, our comfortable terrace at the Boddhi Tree Aram hotel.

In the afternoon the rain stopped, and most of us visited the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, commonly known as S-21. Walking through the former school that was turned into a prison during the Khmer Rouge regime where victims were tortured and killed or deported to the Killing Fields for execution was depressing and frightening.

The atmosphere resembles those of Nazi concentration camps, only the atrocities here happened in our generation’s time, merely forty years ago. One cannot imagine the living conditions and the pains that the inmates were exposed to. There are only seven known survivors, including Vann Nath whose paintings show people being tortured. In a documentary, a former prison guard confirms that they accurately depict what happened at S-21.

The commander of Toul Sleng, known by his alias “Duch”, was sentenced to 35 years of imprisonment by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, commonly known as the “Khmer Rouge Tribunal”. Trials for other senior members of the Khmer Rouge started in June this year, yet support for the tribunal is limited even among those who lost family members and friends here.

After a few hours at the museum we needed a treat and landed at Swensen’s, an international grill and ice cream chain of San Francisco origin, which was okay but not really great. Going for green tea ice cream was probably not the best choice either.

The day ended with a visit to the night market and, for Bertrand et moi, with drinks at the Riverside restaurant.

One of my favorite shots from this #ibmcsc trip is the two kids crossing the busy street near the riverside:

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