“The Cambodian Police Want to Talk to You…”

Authored By Jennifer

Brian didn’t mention that our Vietnamese guide said this to me as I tried to get my passport from her before we crossed the border into Cambodia. When I got on the phone, the guy on the other end would say hello, and I would say hello back, and we’d go on and on saying hello and he never told me what he wanted. Only when I put the Vietnamese guide back on the phone did I understand that I would have to pay $10 or they would take my visa away. Of course we relented and I had no problems after that. It was our official welcome into the country. After my experience in Vietnam, I was really looking forward to Cambodia.

We drove about an hour through the countryside to Phnom Penh and the first thing I noticed was that Cambodia has much less money than Vietnam. We drove on dirt roads and the homes the villagers lived in were literally shacks made from wood and palm leaves. There’s not a ton of money in Vietnam, but they at least had homes made of concrete.

Strikingly however, was that when we arrived in Phnom Penh, it looked very much like a western city. There were actual stores you went into to shop instead of vendors on the street. There were still some vendors, but not like Vietnam. And there weren’t quite as many people either.

We made our way to California 2 guesthouse and met the owner Jim who is originally from San Diego. The price was actually higher than we wanted to pay ($20) and the room wasn’t great, but I have to admit that we stayed simply because he served huevos rancheros and fish tacos.

Brian also didn’t mention how we came across this guesthouse. While on the plane from Danang to Saigon, we met a couple sitting across from us. The guy was American and in his 40’s, and his wife was Cambodian and was probably in her early 20’s, but looked like she was 17. He talked to his wife like she was a child who barely knew English. And they’d been married for over a year! We thought this was a little unusual, but I can’t tell you how many couples we saw in PP that looked exactly like this. Older white guy, young hot Cambodian girl. I’m not sure what was going on, but it was a little weird.

We didn’t stay too long in PP, but made time to see the Genocide Museum, National Museum and Royal Palace. We’ve all heard of Pol Pot and the destruction of the Khmer Rouge, but seeing it up close and personal at the Genocide Museum was hard to take in. The Khmer Rouge killed half of the population of Cambodia between the years of 1975 to 1979. And the people they chose to kill were the educated people, Doctors, Lawyers, Artists, Monks, and their entire families. To save bullets, they would have the people they were going to kill line up blind-folded over pits, hit them in the head so that they would fall into the pits, and then slit their throats. At the genocide museum, which was a former school the Khmer Rouge turned into a prison and torture chamber, we saw pictures of many of the victims. Young, old, men, women, sick and healthy. And there are pictures of the torture techniques they used on innocent people, you can still see the blood stains on the floor. And you know what’s ridiculous? The Khmer Rouge was still in power as late as 1994. We were graduating from high school at that time, and I never heard about any of this until college. And can you believe that not one single person in the Khmer Rouge has been brought to trial for the atrocities committed in Cambodia? It’s a travesty! The worst part is that this wasn’t the first time the world has seen mass genocide and it’s not the last. The same thing is happening in Darfur as I write this and no one’s doing anything about it.

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