Bone fragments, teeth and pieces of fabric litter the ground next to a gnarled and knotted tree against which babies and small children had their bodies pulverised until limp.
Here lies the remains of more than 100 women and children, but a fraction of the more than 17,000 Cambodians that met an equally bloody end in Choeung Ek’s killing fields.
All were victims of Pol Pot’s cruel and bloody Khmer Rouge regime.
Between 1975 and 1979 Choeung Ek saw an estimated 20,000 prisoners murdered and dumped in approximately 129 mass graves.
Due to its relative proximity, many of the victims were prisoners of the infamous S-21 detention center, now the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide Crimes, where victims were often imprisoned and tortured for months beforehand.
Meanwhile, many members of the Khmer Rouge were also killed here. Murdered and dumped in mass graves just like everybody else.
To visit the site is to be bludgeoned by the horrific tragedy that unfolded here.
Men, women and children were all savagely beaten to death to save on bullets; most were blind-folded with their hands tied behind their back.
Entire families were murdered so that no-one would be left to seek revenge. Women and children were stripped naked before execution and members of the Khmer Rouge were beheaded to serve as an example to their former comrades.
Nowadays visitors can view more than 5,000 human skulls and other body parts inside a 17-story Buddhist memorial stupa in the centre of the Choeung Ek grounds.
The audio guide – $5US including entry fee into the grounds – features first-hand stories from Khmer guards, survivors and former prisoners. They paint a grim but detailed picture of the atrocities that were committed here.
A visit to the killing fields is an essential experience for anyone travelling to Cambodia. Tense, shocking and incredibly vivid, this is an experience that will remain with you long after you leave. And so it should.
We must never forget the heinous atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. We must remember those unfortunate souls who lost their lives here, learn from the mistakes of the past and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
May the victims of Choeung Ek’s killing fields finally rest in peace.