Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former ‘killing caves’ become a sobering tourist destination

Former ‘killing caves’ become a sobering tourist destination

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Located in Battambang province’s Banan district along National Road 57, Phnom Sampov consists of many mountain caves attracting tourists from around the world. But their natural beauty today contrasts with their grim history as Khmer Rouge-era ‘killing caves’. Yousos Apdoul Rashim

Former ‘killing caves’ become a sobering tourist destination

Phnom Sampov consists of many mountain caves attracting tourists from around the world. But their natural beauty today contrasts with their grim history as Khmer Rouge-era “killing caves”.

Among them is Pka Sla cave, Chest Pounding cave and the Bat cave, where thousands were killed under the Pol Pot regime, with the bones of victims today kept in a glass stupa for display.

Guide Soung Sitha accompanies visitors to the historic caves, starting with Laang Teng Kloun (Beautified Room Cave) where he points to a case displaying the clothes of victims: “Here we keep victims’ remains, especially clothes worn by people under the Pol Pot regime. They were well-educated people.”

Leaving Laang Teng Kloun and visiting nearby Laang Lkoun, visitors are greeted by a large golden Buddha reclining next to a stupa full of bones, while a picture depicting victims being thrown from a cliff down into the dark abyss below, as occurred in the cave during the Khmer Rouge era, sits on the wall.

Grade 5 student Sok Sonita serves as an amateur local guide for children. She takes time from her studies to tell tourists about the history of the caves.

“I can speak a little English and can tell foreigners about the killing and bludgeoning. This was the place they [Pol Pot’s comrades] hit people from above and let them fall. They were well-educated people. I earn irregular money as some days I get a very small amount or nothing, and some days I earn $10,” she said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
At Laang Lkoun, visitors see a large golden Buddha reclining in the centre of the cave next to a stupa full of bones. The entire complex is comprised of 12 caves that can be explored. Hong Menea

Phnom Sampov, 12km west of Battambang, is also the locale for a Homeric Khmer legend in which the machinations of a sentient crocodile were foiled by the stroke of a maiden’s hair.

Mok Sinnara, Battambang provincial tourism department’s former director, told The Post: “The legend goes that Sampov mountain was formed when prince Reach Kol’s sailing junk, carrying dowry in order to marry princess Romsay Sok, was immersed by her crocodile named Athun and became Sailing mountain.

“The dowry was littered around and became Chicken Cage mountain, Duck Cage mountain and the location where princess Romsay Sok stroked her hair became Romsay Sok mountain. Moreover, when the water went down, Athun’s body became Crocodile mountain.

“Here at Sampov mountain, where the Romsay Sok temple sits, there are many caves. We think that the Beautified Room Cave is where Romsay Sok dressed up and waited for the prince Reach Kol.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The entire complex is comprised of 12 caves that can be explored. Hong Menea

But today, it is survivors of the Khmer Rouge era that visit the caves to pay their respects.

“A few months ago, survivors visited the homeland and conducted a Buddhism ceremony to offer deeds for dead people. They cried remembering the things that happened to them,” said Sitha, who is among four guides who work at Sampov mountain.

Sitha estimates that some 10,000 victims were killed around the mountain, with trucks full of bones transported to museum.

The caves are located at the peak of Phnom Sampov, in Phnom Sampov commune, Banan district along National Road 57. The entire complex is comprised of 12 caves that can be explored.

Watch video:

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings plans to sell Cambodian unit

    LOLC Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s second-largest publicly traded company by revenue, plans to sell its 70 per cent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd, which also counts Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. as a shareholder, LOLC deputy chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said. Nanayakkara