Later in the day, Vikram would visit notorious S-21 Prison buildings in another part of the city. He knew about the recent dark era in country’s history, when ruled by the ruthless dictator Pol Pot. These buildings used to house a local school that was converted into Cambodia's most notorious torture house. More than 14,000 people were tortured here before being killed at various killing fields throughout the country, en route to annihilation of two million citizens. As Vikram began to read some of the recovered historic documents, he stumbled into following information. At birth, Pol Pot was known as Saloth Sar. He had attended Wat Botum for his initiation as a monk. His teachers always considered him “a charming fellow”, someone who never caused anyone any trouble, never started fights - a lovely child. Vikram suddenly remembered the peaceful prayer scene from his morning visit to the same pagoda.
Vikram traveled to Cambodia from neighboring Myanmar. There his travel guide took him to historic cities of Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay situated in southern and mid-section of the country. But the guide advised him against traveling to northern section, citing some internal political violence. But Vikram became aware of the truth. An “ethnic cleansing” was under way in that part of the country. Minority Islamic Rohingya population had been summarily persecuted by majority Buddhists, led by a firebrand young monk known as Wirathu whom a western magazine termed as “The Face of Buddhist terror”.
In his college days, Vikram once visited the historic tree in the city of Bodh Gaya under which Siddhartha was engaged in his final meditation before becoming enlightened Buddha with wisdom that would encourage him to start his new pacifist religion.
Now standing inside one of these torture chambers of S-29, he wondered what went horribly wrong with Buddha’s teachings to convert all these former peaceful monks into genocidal leaders of modern times.