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The trial against the leaders of Pol Pot's regime, the dictator who exterminated 20 per cent of his people between 1975 and 1979, has recently started. But how heavy is the burden of past for Cambodians? Young people fear criminality more than yesterday's phantoms. And the majority of Khmer people hardly survive in the impoverished countryside.

Cambodia Today: life in the land of Killing Fields. A Photo story by ŠStefano Torrione/LightMediation Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 thierry@lightmediation.com


2344-06: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Musicians injured by landmines near Ta Prohm Khmer Temple.


2344-01: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. A group of Corean tourists at Bayon Khmer Temple. A monk poses for a photo.

2344-02: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor Wat Temple, a Thai Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage.

2344-03: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. A Cambodian pilgrim on the bridge of Angkor Wat Temple.

2344-04: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Wedding party at Angkor Wat Temple.


2344-15: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. Children bathe in the riverbed.


2344-05: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Wedding party at Angkor Wat Temple.

2344-06: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Musicians injured by landmines near Ta Prohm Khmer Temple.

2344-07: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Aki Ra's Landmine Museum.

2344-08: Cambodia, Siem Reap, A young guardian of Kbal Spean, "Head Bridge", cooks lunch in a clearing on Kulen Hills.


2344-24: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge. A fisherman protects himself from the dust produced by the construction of the new road.


2344-09: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Kbal Spean, "Head Bridge", is an Angkorian era site on the southwest slopes of the Kulen Hills, 30 km from Angkor. 1000 Lingams and stone carvings reproducing various Hindu

2344-10: Cambodia, Siem Reap. A Khmer farmer on her way home near Banteay Samre Temple.

2344-11: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Young girls on a bicycle in the rains of May on the road to Banteay Srey Temple.

2344-12: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Young souvenir sellers at Banteay Srey Temple shelter from the rain with plastic bags.


2344-13: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. Women collect alms for the pagoda along the road to the sacred mount of Phnom Kulen.

2344-14: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. Preah Ang Thom Pagoda, with the biggest Buddha statue of Cambodia.

2344-15: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. Children bathe in the riverbed.

2344-16: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water.


2344-04: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Wedding party at Angkor Wat Temple.


2344-17: Cambodia, Siem Reap. A truck with local visitors leaves Banteay Samre Temple.

2344-18: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. A child bathes in the riverbed.

2344-19: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Traditional Shadow Theatre organized by Krousar Thmey ("New Family" in Khmer), a Cambodian no-profit foundation assisting deprived children.

2344-20: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house, Pol Pot's right-hand man.


2344-21: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house, Pol Pot's right-hand man.

2344-22: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge.

2344-23: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. Pol Pot's tomb, where his body was cremated.

2344-24: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge. A fisherman protects himself from the dust produced by


2344-37: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young monks from the district of Sotnikum visit the ruins of Koh Ker Temple.


2344-25: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. Two young girls look at the billboard illustrating the new buildings in town. The ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge has partially emerged from isolation thanks to a new

2344-26: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge.

2344-27: North Eastern Cambodia. In the center for people affected by AIDS and drug addiction on route 69 near Anlong Veng, the ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, on the Thai border.

2344-28: North Eastern Cambodia. In the center for people affected by AIDS and drug addiction on route 69 to Preah Vihear. A young couple of victims of landmines and their little daughter.


2344-29: North Eastern Cambodia. Distribution of food to people affected by AIDS and drug addiction in the center on route 69 near Anlong Veng, ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge.

2344-30: Cambodia, kulen district. In the village of Ta Keng along the road to Koh Ker.

2344-31: Cambodia, Preah Vihear. A woman selects rice in the village of Preah Vihear.

2344-32: Cambodia, Preah Vihear. Soldier Riem Roatta, works as a mine clearer in Preah Vihear.


2344-34: Cambodia, Kulen district. Farmers on their way back from fields on the road to Koh Ker.


2344-33: Cambodia, Preah Vihear province. Two children in the rain on the second level of Preah Vihear Temple.

2344-34: Cambodia, Kulen district. Farmers on their way back from fields on the road to Koh Ker.

2344-35: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young women employed by Apsara, the authority that took over control of the maintenance of Koh Ker Temple.

2344-36: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young monks from the district of Sotnikum visit the ruins of Koh Ker Temple.


2344-49: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek. 15km south of Phnom Penh, it is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between

2344-38: Cambodia, Kulen district. A group from the village of Sotnikum on a truck on their visit to the ruins of Koh Ker Temple.

2344-39: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist

2344-40: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist


2344-46: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist nuns visits the section of the torture rooms.


2344-41: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist

2344-42: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. The section with the

2344-43: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks.

2344-44: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks.


2344-12: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Young souvenir sellers at Banteay Srey Temple shelter from the rain with plastic bags.


2344-45: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks.

2344-50: Cambodia, Preah Vihear province. The highest level of Preah Vihear Temple, on the border with Thailand.

2344-47: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks.

2344-48: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek. 15km south of Phnom Penh, it is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between


2344-19: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Traditional Shadow Theatre organized by Krousar Thmey ("New Family" in Khmer), a Cambodian no-profit foundation assisting deprived children.


Back to Cambodia. Anlong Veng is slowing changing. The ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge has partially emerged from isolation thanks to a new road and it is trying to come to a new life. This area on the border with Thailand was the theatre of the last episodes of the Red Khmer history, the communist revolutionaries who ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 imposing one of the cruellest regimes on earth. On April 15th, 1998 Saloth Sar, Brother Number One, sadly known as Pol Pot, died here, among rice fields and bamboo houses. His death was officially due to heart failure, but there are strong suspicions that he was poisoned by his fellow comrades after being tried for treason by general Ta Mok, his ex right-hand man. An anonymous aluminium roof covers the torturer's tomb, whose body was cremated on a pyre made of old tyres. Today, thirty years after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime which wiped out one third of the population (about 1.500.000 victims) and destroyed the economy and the culture of a whole country, five ex leaders of that bloody regime are being tried in Phnom Phen by an International Court patronized by the United Nations and composed by Cambodian and foreign members. The day of reckoning with its tragic past before what has already been compared

to an Asian Nuremberg has finally come, but the present day scenario is dramatically different from the time of the Khmer Rouge regime. The International Court had a difficult start, its progress having lasted more than ten years, and its expenses are very high (apparently more than 56 million dollars). In addition, it cannot count on the support of the ruling class, part of which has been deeply colluded with Pol Pot's ultra Maoist power. Cambodian people don't know all the truth about their sad past and the five ex leaders of the "Reign of Terror" on trial are in their eighties by now, while the 80% of the population was born after 1987, when the Vietnamese troops freed the country. The lack of a historical memory legitimated by an official sentence leaves the near past of Khmer Rouge still wrapped up in mystery and covered by the fear of those who witnessed the genocide of a whole nation. Cambodians have a dreadful memory of the Khmer Rouge period but at the same time they harbour an atavic hatred for their Vietnamese "liberators" or "occupants"; no celebrations for the thirtieth anniversary of the liberation have taken place on either side in fact. Today Cambodians are slowly rebuilding their country along the lines of Chinese capitalism already followed by Vietnam, but, although the GDP has constantly grown from 2004 to 2007 thanks to foreign capital investments (yet collapsed in 2008 due to the economic crisis), the country is still one of the poorest of all Asia. Its boundaries are open to Westerners and tourism strides forward like a neo-colonialist power, yet its young population is still suspended between a dark past to be closed and an uncertain future to be invented.

The signs of the Khmer folly are still clear everywhere, and in some cases they have been turned into places of memory like Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide, which is located within the former prison grounds in Phnom Penh or Choeung Ek known as The Killing Fields. Anlong Veng is changing; it grows like a large, dusty town because of its dirt roads that get muddy during the monsoon season. New style buildings aping western shopping malls and blocks of flats gleam like mirages from the billboards of the building yards financed by foreign money. An anonymous hotel welcomes the rare Westerners who divert from the fixed route of Angkor. The only tourist sign in town points to Ta Mok's house, a Khmer Rouge general whose cruelty earned him the nickname Butcher, and who was captured by the Cambodian army and died in prison in Phnom Penh in 2006. His two-floor house is on the edge of town, no ostentation, only a bright colour fresco of Angkor and a large map of Democratic Kampuchea on the upper floor. Some local visitors arrive on a pickup truck, a few enter the abandoned cages in the garden joking about them. Young boys run up the stairs, look at the graffito "Assassin Ta Mok!!" that nobody dares delete. The house faces the lake, where groups of children swim in a ghostly, day-after like atmosphere. The lake is actually the result of the hydro geological upheaval caused by the insane vision of a New Country founded on a primitive agrarian utopia. The economic reform imposed by Khieu Samphan, the president of Democratic Kampuchea who had studied politics and economics in Paris, turned Cambodia into a vast farming concentration camp and drove the country to starvation, overwork and death.

Nhem En lives in Anlong Veng and he is a local leader of the Cambodia People Party headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. He was a photographer at Tuol Sleng prison camp in Phnom Penh, formerly a high school, and he was in charge of photographing all prisoners upon their arrival before they were tortured and killed in mass graves. Out of an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned at Tuol Sleng from 1975 to 1979, there were only seven known survivors. Nhem En has kept all the portraits and he would like to create a commemoration museum, but he cannot find the money to display his uncomfortable truth. Tuol Sleng is now Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum; in 1979, after the Khmer Rouge were driven out, Ho Van Tay, a Vietnamese combat photographer, was the first media person to document Tuol Sleng to the world and everything has been left intact since then, the classrooms turned into tiny prison cells, all windows covered with iron bars and barbed wire everywhere. Leaving Anlong Veng behind, Route 69 heads northeast towards Preah Vihear, the contended temple. Located on the the ridge of Dangrek Mountains on the Cambodian side of the border between Thailand and Cambodia, the Hindu temple was included in the Unesco list of World Heritage in 2007. The nomination revived the century-long dispute between the two countries over the ownership of the archaeological area, which the International Court of Justice awarded to Cambodia in 1962. Thailand doesn't want to give up and is reluctant to miss a possible source of income represented by the tourists who arrive here to admire one of the jewels of the ancient Khmer empire. "This area was all mined", says soldier Riem Roatta at the


mistake of those who had believed that the Asian revolutionaries could reform society and create the New Man. mine clearing camp financed by the Australian government. "The 90% of the landmines have been removed and the site is now safe", he says, proud of his work as a mine clearer in a country scattered with antipersonnel mines that have caused a dramatic number of victims and disabled people. Preah Vihar, the border temple dedicated to Shiva, bears the scars of time and war and takes us back to the origin of the Kingdom of Kambou's Children, the great Khmer Empire, the most powerful of Southeast Asian mainland in the medieval era, whose capital was the magnificent Angkor. According to the legend, Kambou (whence Kamboudja) was a Brahman prince who arrived from India and to go back to the Khmer origins one must climb on top of the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen, about 50 kilometres east of Angkor. On this peak in 802, King Jayavarman II declared himself a Hindu god-king and marked the beginning of the Angkor period in Khmer history. Today Cambodians pray the giant reclining Buddha carved into the top of a 20-m boulder and bathe in the holy waters of the "1000 Lingam River", oval phallic symbols for the worship of Shiva carved into the sandstone riverbed. Many Cambodians wrapped in their Khmer check scarves (kramar) cross the river and penetrate the forest followed by a cloud of mountain tobacco smoke. Observing these people neither victor nor vanquished, the words of the Italian war correspondent Tiziano Terzani come to one's mind: "We were wrong...", he wrote at the end of the conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam, admitting the


Captions. 2344-01: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. A group of Corean tourists at Bayon Khmer Temple. A monk poses for a photo. 2344-02: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Angkor Wat Temple, a Thai Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage. 2344-03: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. A Cambodian pilgrim on the bridge of Angkor Wat Temple. 2344-04: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Wedding party at Angkor Wat Temple. 2344-05: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Wedding party at Angkor Wat Temple. 2344-06: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Angkor Archaeological Park. Musicians injured by landmines near Ta Prohm Khmer Temple. 2344-07: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Aki Ra's Landmine Museum. 2344-08: Cambodia, Siem Reap, A young guardian of Kbal Spean, "Head Bridge", cooks lunch in a clearing on Kulen Hills. 2344-09: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Kbal Spean, "Head Bridge", is an Angkorian era site on the southwest slopes of the Kulen Hills, 30 km from Angkor. 1000 Lingams and stone carvings reproducing various Hindu mythological motifs are carved in and around the Stung Kbal Spean river. 2344-10: Cambodia, Siem Reap. A Khmer

farmer on her way home near Banteay Samre Temple. 2344-11: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Young girls on a bicycle in the rains of May on the road to Banteay Srey Temple. 2344-12: Cambodia, Siem Reap. Young souvenir sellers at Banteay Srey Temple shelter from the rain with plastic bags. 2344-13: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. Women collect alms for the pagoda along the road to the sacred mount of Phnom Kulen. 2344-14: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. Preah Ang Thom Pagoda, with the biggest Buddha statue of Cambodia. 2344-15: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. Children bathe in the riverbed. 2344-16: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. A group of Khmer people from the province of Kandal, near Phnom Penh, crosses the sacred waters. 2344-17: Cambodia, Siem Reap. A truck with local visitors leaves Banteay Samre Temple. 2344-18: Cambodia, province of Siem Reap. On the sacred hilltop of Phnom Kulen flows the Siem Reap River, the River of 1000 Lingams spreading out from the water. A child bathes in the riverbed. 2344-19:

Cambodia,

Siem

Reap.

Traditional Shadow Theatre organized by Krousar Thmey ("New Family" in Khmer), a Cambodian no-profit foundation assisting deprived children. 2344-20: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house, Pol Pot's right-hand man. 2344-21: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house, Pol Pot's right-hand man. 2344-22: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge. 2344-23: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. Pol Pot's tomb, where his body was cremated. 2344-24: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge. A fisherman protects himself from the dust produced by the construction of the new road. 2344-25: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. Two young girls look at the billboard illustrating the new buildings in town. The ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge has partially emerged from isolation thanks to a new road and it is coming to a new life. 2344-26: Cambodia, Anlong Veng. General Ta Mok's house is surronded by a dead forest. Its death is due to the construction of a dam by the Khmer Rouge. 2344-27: North Eastern Cambodia. In the center for people affected by AIDS and drug addiction on route 69 near Anlong

Veng, the ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, on the Thai border. 2344-28: North Eastern Cambodia. In the center for people affected by AIDS and drug addiction on route 69 to Preah Vihear. A young couple of victims of landmines and their little daughter. 2344-29: North Eastern Cambodia. Distribution of food to people affected by AIDS and drug addiction in the center on route 69 near Anlong Veng, ancient stronghold of the Khmer Rouge. 2344-30: Cambodia, kulen district. In the village of Ta Keng along the road to Koh Ker. 2344-31: Cambodia, Preah Vihear. A woman selects rice in the village of Preah Vihear. 2344-32: Cambodia, Preah Vihear. Soldier Riem Roatta, works as a mine clearer in Preah Vihear. 2344-33: Cambodia, Preah Vihear province. Two children in the rain on the second level of Preah Vihear Temple. 2344-34: Cambodia, Kulen district. Farmers on their way back from fields on the road to Koh Ker. 2344-35: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young women employed by Apsara, the authority that took over control of the maintenance of Koh Ker Temple. 2344-36: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young monks from the district of Sotnikum visit the ruins of Koh Ker Temple. 2344-37: Cambodia, Kulen district. Young monks from the district of Sotnikum visit


believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks.

the ruins of Koh Ker Temple. 2344-38: Cambodia, Kulen district. A group from the village of Sotnikum on a truck on their visit to the ruins of Koh Ker Temple. 2344-39: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist nuns visits the section with the photographs of the prisoners. 2344-40: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist nuns visits the section with the photographs of the prisoners. 2344-41: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist nuns visits the section with the photographs of the prisoners. 2344-42: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. The section with the photographs of the prisoners. 2344-43: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the

2344-44: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks. 2344-45: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks. 2344-46: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The site is a former high school which was used as the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime. A group of Buddhist nuns visits the section of the torture rooms. 2344-47: Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Religious celebration at the Silver Pagoda. The religious festivals are determined by the Buddhist lunar calendar, and the believers offer fruit, flowers and light incense sticks. 2344-48: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek. 15km south of Phnom Penh, it is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between 1975 and 1979. 2344-49: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek. 15km south of Phnom Penh, it is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between 1975 and 1979. Children play cards by the fence.

2344-50: Cambodia, Preah Vihear province. The highest level of Preah Vihear Temple, on the border with Thailand.

Cambodia Today: life in the land of Killing Fields.  

The trial against the leaders of Pol Pot's regime, the dictator who exterminated 20 per cent of his people between 1975 and 1979, has recent...

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