11/4 – Phnom Penh

Au cours d’un arrêt pendant le trajet depuis Kompong Cham un regard insistant d’un cambodgien me conduit à engager la conversation avec  lui. Je lui demande les raisons de sa présence ici. C’est un cambodgien réfugié en France et revenu à la retraite dans son pays qu’il a quitté pendant le régime des Khmers rouges; je lui demande s’il a de la famille; la réponse me glace : femme et enfants sont morts pendant cette période. Le car repart ne me laissant pas le temps de poursuivre cet échange avec cet homme. Cette rencontre va me marquer pendant toute la visite de ce pays.

Le bus nous dépose au Psar Thmei ( marché central ) en fin de matinée sous une chaleur torride ( 35°).

DSC05950  Nous prenons un Tuk-Tuk pour nous rendre à l’hôtel. La capitale du Cambodge, 2 millions d’habitants, est très étendue. D’emblée nous sommes saisis par les contrastes qui marquent cette ville. Pauvreté absolue et richesse extrême, charme et chaos, immeubles resplendissants et taudis de tôle, tout cela se conjugue en même temps comme témoins du présent et du passé. L’activité est débordante aujourd’hui. Phnom Penh est le point de départ de notre circuit au Cambodge. Pour cela nous avons passé contrat avec une agence afin de ne rien louper de son histoire lointaine et plus récente. Le lendemain nous allons à l’aéroport chercher Hélène, ma nièce et filleule, venue faire un bout de chemin dans notre périple.

DSC05951Hélène nous a gâté avec une bouteille de Bordeaux, une boite de foie gras, et quelques tablettes de chocolat ! Nous sifflerons les 2 premiers le lendemain à l’apéro, pendant qu’Hélène nous donne les nouvelles fraiches de la famille, un régal!!! Le 15/4 nous commençons notre circuit avec guide francophone, voiture et chauffeur. On a un peu cassé la tirelire pour cela mais le Cambodge c’est tellement de choses à voir et à comprendre. Notre guide pour quelques jours, Mr CHAN, est sur le point de prendre sa retraite, il est responsable au sein du ministère de la culture du département ayant à charge de réparer le palais royal et le musée national après le passage des Khmers rouges. De même il a eu une part active à la création du musée du génocide et de la mise à jour du charnier de Choeung Ek dont nous parlons plus loin. Donc un monsieur très érudit parlant un français plus que convenable, très serviable et attentif, il sera un compagnon très agréable. Pour le 1er jour Mr Chan nous fait visiter les incontournables de Phnom Penh:

DSC05954  Palais royal et pagode d’argent – Le palais royal abrite encore la famille royale mais une partie est ouverte au public. La salle du trône est utilisée pour le couronnement et des cérémonies importantes. Le roi Sihanouk y vit encore mais ne se montre plus. Il a abdiqué en 2004 au profit de Sihamoni, l’ un de ses nombreux enfants, légitimé par le gouvernement. La pagode d’argent doit son nom à son sol constitué de plus de 5000 dalles d’argent, pesant chacune 1kg. Un bouddha grandeur nature en or pesant près de 90kg et orné de 9584 diamants d’une beauté indescriptible (hélas les photos sont interdites…)

 

 

DSC05972  Le musée National – à deux pas du palais royal, il occupe un bâtiment traditionnel en terre cuite. Il renferme la plus belle collection au monde de sculptures khmères. Mr Chan est intarissable sur la description historique. Il est en partie responsable de la restauration du musée.

L’après midi nous faisons la visite de 2 sites consacrés à la mémoire des victimes de la barbarie des Khmers rouges. Initialement Annick et moi, nous n’étions pas très chauds pour voir le témoignage de ces horreurs. Mais le jour où nous sommes arrivés à Phnom Penh, nous avons vu cette immense ville qui en avril 1975 a été totalement vidée de ses habitants par les Khmers rouges entrés en vainqueurs, cet homme rencontré ayant perdu femme et enfants, notre guide Mr Chan rescapé de l’horreur. Tout cela a balayé nos hésitations. Nous qui ne faisons que passer nous avons un devoir de dire. Pardon pour ces quelques lignes que j’écris, elles peuvent heurter la sensibilité de chacun. Nous nous sommes interdits de prendre des photos de ces lieux.

Musée de Tuol Sleng ou musée du génocide – En 1975 les forces de sécurité de Pol Pot investissent le lycée de Tuol Svay Prey pour en faire une prison de haute sécurité appelée S-21. Entre 1975 et 1978, 17000 personnes y furent emprisonnées dans des conditions inhumaines, torturées pour leur extorquer des aveux, et envoyées au camp de Choeung Ek pour y être massacrées. En 1977 le S-21 revendiquait une moyenne de 100 personnes par jour. Le musée a conservé en l’état toutes les salles de classe transformées en prison collective ou cellules et salles d’interrogatoire comprenant les instruments laissés là par les tortionnaires avant leur fuite en 1979. Des photos des victimes –hommes, femmes, enfants ou adolescents – tapissent les murs. L’aspect banal du lieu le rend d’autant plus épouvantable. Mr Chan nous explique comment, alors qu’il participait à la création de ce musée, il a eu la douleur de reconnaître sur ces photos  l’un de ses amis ainsi que l’un de ses professeurs.

Les Charniers de Choeung Ek – A 15km de Phnom Penh, c’est là qu’étaient envoyés les détenus de S-21 pour y être éliminés. 17000 hommes, femmes, enfants et bébés y périrent. tous déclarés coupables……43 des 129 charniers sont restés intacts. Cela c’est ce que nous avons vu. Mais tout le Cambodge a été le théâtre des horreurs. Pendant les 3ans 8mois et 20 jours du régime de Pol Pot, Mr Chan nous dit que 50% environ de la population aura été décimée, assassinée ou morte de faim et de maladie. Pendant cette visite Mr Chan, un professionnel, aura du mal à cacher sa propre émotion en évoquant le sort de ses proches et sa vie pendant cette période. Qu’il y soit ici respectueusement remercié.

La visite de ces 2 lieux est très éprouvante car ils évoquent la face la plus terrifiante de l’humanité. Nous ne cessons de nous poser la question: comment  et au nom de quoi cela a-t-il été possible ? De même lorsque nous croisons le regard d’un homme en âge d’avoir été un possible acteur de cette période, nous nous demandons : était-il du côté des bourreaux ou des victimes ? Sans réponse……. Nous rentrons le soir à l’hôtel vidés mais satisfaits d’avoir été au bout de cette démarche absolument indispensable pour qui vient au Cambodge. Les cambodgiens font un travail remarquable de mémoire sur cette période: monuments, livres, articles de journaux intervention dans les écoles….;

DSC05982  Le lendemain départ vers Siem Reap, pour les temples d’Angkor, avec une “escale “ à Kampong Thom . En route à l’heure de midi, Mr Chan nous arrête pour voir quelques spécialités culinaires cambodgiennes. Insectes grillées notamment des mygales……On ne reste pas longtemps ! A Kompong Thom nous allons rendre visite dans un orphelinat à une jeune fille parrainée par une amie.

 

 

 

Rencontre émouvante car Mechs, c’est son nom, nous fait visiter la chambre collective sommaire où elle a vécu, car actuellement elle se prépare à une activité professionnelle. J’oubliais de préciser que le Cambodge fête du 14/4 au 18/4 le nouvel an. C’est l’occasion pour les familles de se réunir, parfois en venant de très loin, et d’aller à la pagode du village pour faire la fête ; la coutume veut que l’on s’asperge de farine.

DSC06034  DSC06028

Nous sommes parfois pressés de retourner dans la voiture car la chaleur est accablante.

Bernard

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