On a recent visit to Phnom Penh we visited S21 and the Killing Fields as many visitors to Cambodia have done. We found the experience profoundly harrowing, shocking and depressing. So much so that we question our motives for going there.
Was it because most who have visited before say you have to go to see what went on? But we in the West already know that, don't we? There's a wealth of media material out there telling us all that went on with as much detail to be read as you require. Even now the current trial of Duch, who was S21's Director, is receiving widespread coverage in the West. So why is it considered necessary to see these vile places at first hand?
So why did we go?
One of the memories amongst many was a photograph of citizens of Phnom Penh joyously welcoming their Khmer Rouge "liberators" in 1975 little knowing the living hell they would soon have to endure only days later.
It is my strong contention, therefore, that it is the Cambodians themselves who would gain most by a visit to these places, to strengthen their desire never again to allow someone like Pol Pot and his ilk to gain the power they did.
But as tourist destinations........????
Now I know this is strong stuff on what is normally a holiday forum. But the places I mention are on most tourist itineraries for a visit to Cambodia and I hope TA will allow a serious debate on the subject.