Located about 17km south of Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek was once an orchard and a Chinese graveyard. It was used by the Khmer Rouge regime as an execution ground to put down thousands of people between 1975 and 1979. The site is now better known as the Killing Fields. Mass graves containing thousands of bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the dead were former inmates in the Tuol Sleng prison.
Cambodia's tragic past can be seen less painfully through the perspactive of time and its war museum, if not the most cheerful place in the world, can be extremely instructive in terms of coming to grips with what actually happened during those terrible years.
No less instructive is the burial and execution grounds at Choeng Ek where thousands of exhumed skulls are on display.
15km southwest of the city centre is one of the many sites of Khmer Rouge mass executions. The exhumed skulls of some 8,000 souls, arranged by sex and age, are displayed behind glass panels in the Memorial Stupa, which was erected in 1988. Although some were killed and buried at Tuol Sleng, most victims were driven out to Choeung Ek at night by truck.
Some were made to dig their own graves before being clubbed to death with any heavy instrument available. In addition to those exhumed, another 43 pits have been left undisturbed and the final shocking total can only be guessed. The pleasant orchard setting does little to dispel the horror engendered by this grim sight, as Choeung Ek is just one of thousands of recorded mass grave sites throughout the country, and is by no means, the largest. On May 9th each year a memorial service is conducted at the stupa, in memory of the estimated 1.7 million people who died during the genocide.