Oct. 7th, 2009 08:29 pm
tevere: girl in gloomy cityscape (city girl)
It's... not funny, but I guess apt in a purely coincidental way, that the first thing you see when you walk into Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is not the buildings themselves, but a beautiful lawn courtyard filled with frangipani trees. In Indonesian, the word for frangipani is bunga kamboja, or 'Cambodian flower', and according to Muslim belief they're associated with graveyards and haunting spirits. Back in Australia I always used to like frangipani, but now they give me shivers.

Another thing I noticed about the museum was again perhaps coincidental. Or maybe not. Seems Cambodians were tortured by having water poured onto their faces from watering cans, and suspended by their arms which had been bound behind their backs.

Ringing any bells?

If you haven't read them, I can highly recommend the ICRC's report on the CIA's illegal detention program (search through the New York Review of Books), Philip Gourevitch's 'Standard Operating Procedure', and 'Ghost Plane' by Stephen Grey. If ever you lose sight of the reality of the war due to over-enthusiasm in Generation Kill (which is easy to do, and I've done it myself), they're a good stark reminder.

More from Cambodia later, when I have a full-sized keyboard!


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