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Cambodia

  • A humble tribute to Cambodia

    Close to two million people were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, a generation lost in a country where the word happiness was eradicated from the dictionary. On board of a bus, fifty survivors, many of them civil parties at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, traveled from different provinces throughout the country to recover a small part of what was murdered by Pol Pot and his “brothers”.

    Since then, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders, including Pol Pot, have escaped judgement, dying of old age before they were ever called to be judged. Yesterday, 35 years after Cambodia was returned to the Cambodians, two of the former Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were given life sentences for crimes against humanity by a United Nations-backed tribunal that has taken too long to give back a bit of peace to those who lost family during the most horrific period in the history of Cambodia.

    As one of the survivors said after the pronouncement of the life sentence, happiness is too big of a word to describe what this sentence has finally brought to Cambodia and for those who have been searching for justice since 1979.

    “I am not happy. Nothing will bring my family back. But now everyone knows that they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. Many of the leaders are still there, others have died without being accused. But today finally we have that bit of justice that we have been fighting for since the beginning”.

    Photography: ©Omar Havana / Getty Images. All Rights Reserved

  • Inside: A Cambodian Slaughterhouse

    In a country where the demand for meat is ever increasing and where pork is generally favoured, Cambodia’s swine slaughterhouses are an important business. The Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture estimates that there is a total yearly production of over 2.4 million pigs.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker removes the insides from a pig while others perform different duties inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Hidden in the darkness of the outskirts of Siem Reap, the city of the famous Angkor temples, an old abandoned building has been transformed into a pig slaughterhouse, where hundreds of animals are killed every night. Rivers of blood cover the floor of the building while dozens of workers, most wearing nothing but underwear, rush between the cries of the pigs to make a living.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A young worker places a pig inside a big pot of boiling water to remove the pig’s hair inside a slaughterhouse where he works every night for seven hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Despite lingering fears from the 2009 swine flu epidemic, there is little regulation over these slaughterhouses. The process by which pigs are slaughtered are less than hygienic. One employee in a slaughterhouse can kill and gut up to 30 pigs a night over a seven hour shift. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker cuts different parts of the pigs piled on the floor inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    As the animals arrive, they are lined up to their death. Those who try to escape are hit with bamboo sticks on the head, just one of the ways in which their lives will come to a brutal end. The animals are then swiftly killed by a knife stab to the neck, and then washed and gutted on concrete slabs and the floor itself. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A worker cleans the insides of pigs in buckets of water inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    Between the thousands of flies wandering around, there is little time to waste for the workers, as markets in Cambodia open soon after dawn. Everyone here has a duty, from the young boy hitting pigs with huge bamboo sticks to those who split the animals’ bodies in two, taking their guts out. Two doctors stepping on floors full of blood certify the quality of the product in no more than a few seconds of inspection, and a broker chooses the animals that are going to travel in the back of a dirty truck to the local markets to supply the increasing demand for pig meat in Cambodia. 

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A veterinarian certifies the quality of pigs hanging inside a slaughterhouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) dictates that the best way to avoid contamination of the meat during the slaughtering process is to avoid contact with the floor, something which is ignored in this slaughterhouse where pigs are thrown to the floor many times during the killing process.

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: Two young men pile cuts of pig meat into the back of a truck outside a slaughterhouse to be sold to vendors in one of the local markets in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved

    SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA: A woman sells meat inside Psa Leur market in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: ©Omar Havana. All Rights Are Reserved