FEBRUARY 22, 2019 | JESSICA SOTO-RODRIGUEZ | SE ASIA - LEUM DTAA
This week our cohort learned about the sad and dark history of Cambodia known as the Khmer Rouge genocide - a genocide that took the lives of 1.8 million people. This took place during the Vietnam war, in April 17, 1975. In this time, dictator Pol Pot seized control of Cambodia and lead an army of country side Cambodians, who mainly were farmers and young people. This group known as Khmer Rouge, were easily manipulated into Pol's plan to turn Cambodia into a communist society. Phnom Penh was the first strike were Khmer Rouge tricked people into thinking Phnom Penh was going to be bombed by the U.S and were being sent to "safe homes" away from the war but were secretly being sent to killing camps where they were executed. People who were seen as "intellectual" so doctors, teachers, government workers, people who wore glasses and the families of suspects were sent to these camps with no mercy. Once victims arrived to camp they were striped of personal belonging, were banned of western influence which included medicine, were malnourished, separated from families, tortured and forced to work 12+ hours. Many died on the journey to the "safe homes" along with hard labor, starvation, disease, execution and by being tortured. This event has impacted Cambodia forever. We were all given the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields and S21 camps.
Earlier this week we worked with a local organization located in Kampot that focuses on mangrove restoration and preservation. Our group learned about the mangrove project in which students helped the organization plant mangroves in the ocean. Mangroves prevent erosion, create habitat for wildlife and acts like a filter for water.
In Phnom Penh we also worked with Friends International which is an international organization that promotes child empowerment. They help children and families at risk by providing schooling, education, employment training along with mental and physical health resources.
We are currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia soon to be leaving to Thailand in two days! Overall, the group has been able to overcome language barriers by communicating with hand signals and body language. We are all doing very well as friends and peers.