Phnom Penh PostCambodia Daily shutting down

As well as doing copious amounts of tourism research for our impending backpacking trip to Cambodia I also subscribed to the free updates from the Phnom Penh Post newspaper so that I can get a flavor for what’s happening in the country.

Today’s headlines includes news about the shutdown of the free press newspaper Cambodia Daily who are being forced to publish their final edition after 24 years because of a $6.3 million tax bill. This action is just one part of a government clampdown which has also put an end to 15 independent radio stations and news outlets like Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and Voice of Democracy. But news outlets aren’t the only targets, opposition leader Kim Sokha was arrested yesterday.

Coincidentally, next year is an election year.

I don’t deign to understand the political situation in Cambodia, or any of the countries that I’ve called home over the past few decades. But it seems like Cambodia is moving in the direction of another country that I won’t mention. It’s a global trend that can only end tragically, which is why gagging of the free press is such a dangerous road to travel down.

The Killing Fields

The Killing FieldsCambodia is still living under the shadow of it’s recent historical atrocities. The Khmer Rouge regime’s rule ended as recently as 1979 after a five-year stint in power that was responsible for The Killing Fields. The horrors of that era are still fresh in a vast majority of the population’s mind and I wonder how they are viewing today’s headlines.

I don’t think you can visit Cambodia without visiting the Killing Fields, so it’s on our itinerary. I’m planning an immersive travel experience rather than lightly brushing this country’s surface. Seeing The Killing Fields and learning about it’s history will hopefully provide us with a greater understanding of the culture of this country.

First stop is to try and dig up a place to watch the movie of the same name and see how Hollywood depicted the events of that era, and then go and experience the aftermath this historical atrocity for ourselves.

The Killing Fields Movie Trailer

The Killing Fields Memoirs

The two journalists in this The Killing Fields movie were Sam Waterstone (probably better known for his roles in Law and Order) and Haing Ngor, who played the academy award-winning role of Dith Pran. Haing is the author of Survival in the Killing Fields, which I’ve just downloaded from Amazon.

Survival in the Killing Fields

Here, in his memoir of life under the Khmer Rouge, is a searing account of a country’s descent into hell. His was a world of war slaves and execution squads, of senseless brutality and mind-numbing torture; where families ceased to be and only a very special love could soar above the squalor, starvation and disease. An eyewitness account of the real killing fields by an extraordinary survivor, this book is a reminder of the horrors of war – and a testament to the enduring human spirit.

When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge

I’ve also downloaded this book by Chanrithy Him, which was a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize.

Chanrithy Him vividly recounts her trek through the hell of the “killing fields.” She gives us a child’s-eye view of a Cambodia where rudimentary labor camps for both adults and children are the norm and modern technology no longer exists. Death becomes a companion in the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, the members of Chanrithy’s family remain loyal to one another, and she and her siblings who survive will find redeemed lives in America.

A Finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize.