Cambodia’s Choeung Ek: Once Brutal, Now Quiet

Behind the trees, unseen children shout and shriek in delight.

There’s an occasional thud of a football being kicked.

Birds twitter and trill.

In the distance, some ancient form of farm machinery drones.

There is no other sound.


As the shadows lengthen and the light dims, I sit and strain to hear something, to feel something, something from the past.


The Killing Fields, Choeung Ek, 15 kilometres from the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, is a quiet place now.

Quiet but very very sad.

Nearly 9,000 bodies have been uncovered at Choeung Ek, from an estimated 1 million killed at the former orchard and Chinese graveyard during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s.

Sign at one of the mass grave sites


A small shrine near a mass grave site


A lucky bracelet, similar to those given by monks, amongst teeth and bones collected after being exposed by rain


Skulls in the Buddhist stupa that is the centrepiece of Choeung Ek


Tributes on the bamboo fence around a mass grave site


8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Oh, such a sad place. I don’t understand how people could do this. thank you for sharing this painful – yet beautiful – place.
    wandering educators recently posted..Exploring the History Beneath the Tower of London

    • Barbara says:

      I don’t really understand how people can do this either. I asked this exact question last time I visited the Killing Fields and the guide told me that if the guards didn’t kill people as ordered, they would be killed themselves. I think that makes the place even sadder.

  2. Nico says:

    I went there a couple of months ago when I visited Cambodia. It’s a terrible reminder about Cambodia’s past, but also an unwitting and positive statement about how far the country has developed since that time.
    Nico recently posted..How a Volcano Almost Ruined my Holiday

    • Barbara says:

      I think you’re right, Nico. Cambodia has come a long way since the the 1970s. There’s still many reminders of the horrors, though. We saw many land mine victims in Siem Reap.

  3. Marianne says:

    I found your blog through Jan at who has featured you as one of her two boggers for my CBBH Photo Challenge this month.

    It’s always a delight to find a new blog to have a look at, and yours is an absolute delight, Barbara.

    I had the honour of visiting Choeung Ek earlier this year when my husband and myself spent two months touring around Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was a beautiful sunny day when we visited the Killing Fields, and even though I knew the chilling history, I felt nothing but peace whilst I was there.

    As we walked around, near the pool, a little ragged girl appeared from behind a fence and was delighted when I gave her a bright red balloon to play with. In fact, she brought some more children to get theirs too! A lovely memory for me.
    Marianne recently posted..Last chance to vote for East of Málaga for an Golden Expat Blog Award!

  4. […] was all so easy we decided to extend our errand to include a visit to the Killing Fields, Choeung Ek, before […]

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