June 1994 | Tonight, as I rest on my bed and write, I feel uneasy, still queasy, you see, I’ve several reasons for feeling sick.
Earlier I’d bought a hard-boiled egg from a street vendor. I sat on a stool beside her bucket as she cracked the shell, then handed me the spoon to scoop out a well-cooked yoke. Firm white and yellow – but containing the tiny black body of a nearly-born bird.
Fuck! I thought. I can’t eat that! I ain’t eating that!
I must’ve looked pale: I felt ill. I paid the woman, excusing myself after the first teaspoon of hard-rubber. She smiled. So did I.
My first taste of Cambodian street food – this a national delicacy, has killed my desire to eat another egg ( … for many months).
This afternoon, I rode on a motorbike along a lonely rural road to arrive at fields of healthy green grass surrounding dozens of dirt pits – littered with decayed human bits, rotting rag and bone poking from the earth; cows grazing as an Autumn breeze swept the spindly coco palms across a cloudy grey day, yet, still the sun shone, there in the chilly vibes of sudden death.
There at one of Cambodia’s many Killing Fields.
There stood these signs in the pits:
GRAVE No. 6: Mass grave of 450 victims.
GRAVE No. 5: Mass grave of more than 100 victims. Children and women whose majority were naked.
GRAVE No. 7: Mass grave of 166 victims without heads.
I wandered round the Killing Fields with a Cambodian in his 40s (the motorbike-taxi rider; he’d survived the onslaught, his family had not). He pointed to clumps of flax bushes – their large branches edged with hard serrations, and these he said were used by the Khmer Rouge to hack-saw heads off living people (In the Bangkok Post I’d read about recent atrocities in Cambodia; how KR guerillas had hacked-off the heads of Cambodian Army officers with a blunt, rusty saw.)
At the pagoda serving as a memorial to the dead, peering through the glass-side walls were zillions of busted skulls and bones, bits stacked from floor to ceiling.
Near this human pagoda a sign read: ” … 86 of the 129 mass graves were unearthed in this extermination camp and 8985 corpse were found … All the victims (peasants, workers, intellectuals, ministers, diplomats, foreigners, women, children) detained and tortured during interrogation at Tuol Sleng (S-21) were later sent to Choueng Ek (where I stand; peaceful farmland) for liquidation … We are absolutely determined not to let this genocidal regime to reoccur in Kampuchea.”
Down the hotel corridor – amid the early-evening noise flooding from the street – comes the reverberation of a person puking. I anticipate more …and again comes his heave and splatter. Then for a third time, he violently vomits, then blows his nose, raking his throat and gobbing. And me, I still feel sickened. Dead chickens in edible eggs. Decapitated people in pits.
Then there’s S-21…
A bleak prison camp … one of the interrogation rooms is empty, bar a steel bed-frame. A large photo on the wall shows the same steel bed with a mutilated body upon it – dead, and the floor wet with blood; another victim hacked with rakes, hammers, hoes.
It is said that KR guards often laughed, as victims screamed, as skin was torn, shredded, ripped by steel.
THE SECURITY REGULATIONS
(quoted / translated from the walls of S-21)
1. You must answer accordingly to my questions. Don’t turn them away .
2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Don’t be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Don’t lie to me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Don’t make pretexts about Kampuchea in order to hide your jaw of traitor.
9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either 10 lashes or 5 shocks of electric discharge.
Phnom Penh’s night is noisy and humid as I draw on a joint, as I reflect on the Killings Fields and S-21.
Still I feel the vibes, hear the victims, their fear and suffering remains in my head.
My $2-a-night room – is a windowless cell; with only a bed and a fan – with only one speed. It rattles fast; whirling and mocking me: chop-chop-chop. (Like them, I could lose my head.) Here on my bed, knees hugging chest, I’m near-blinded. The fluorescent-white-light, the formica-white walls, the shiny-white floor tiles are glaring; as traffic hums, as horns beep / shriek from the street. It’s too much. I try to shut it out, imagining angels singing – suddenly a southern gospel, becomes an air-raid siren, then the sadistic laughter … of prison guards. Everything in my room, in my mind – is tortured. I see cows chomping human-fertilised grass, trees that hacksaw heads, a pagoda of busted, smiling skulls.
I am sick from the killing of a country.
Recent U.N. discoveries of more Killing Fields brings the latest estimates of the number of Khmer Rouge victims now at 2 MILLION MURDERED.