Frontline World

Cambodia - Pol Pot's Shadow, October, 2002

Synopsis of "Pol Pot's Shadow"

In Search of Justice

Historical Analysis: The U.S. and Cambodia

The Rapper, the Dancer, and the Storyteller

Learn more about Cambodia

Genocide, War Crimes, Politics




Diary Entry 5
ANLONG VENG - Jungle Headquarters

Amanda Pike drives through the jungle


Jungle Headquarters
Pol Pot's Grave

We arrive in this dusty backwater town after a backbreaking 12-hour drive from the capital through villages, rice paddies and heavily mined forest.

Anlong Veng was once Pol Pot's jungle headquarters and home of the very last Khmer Rouge holdouts to put down their arms. And after they were driven from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge retreated to remote fortresses like this one and continued to fight a bloody guerrilla war against the government for two decades. The forces in Anlong Veng only stopped fighting at the end of 1998.

The streets are dusty in Anlong Veng
As we pull into the outskirts of Anlong Veng, the ground is covered with a thick mist. Several small brush-clearing fires are just starting to die out. A man-made lake sprawls along the edge of town, dotted with the skeletons of dead, leafless trees. The dirt roads kick up a burnt red dust that gets into everything. Although this area has now officially rejoined the country, there are still no telephone lines and no running water. The only electricity is from a couple of generators that are run sparingly, a few hours a night.

The town's central market is dominated by a large monument, an obelisk, which rises out of the dirt road and towers over the simple stalls and shacks. It was erected by Prime Minister Hun Sen when this area officially rejoined the country four years ago, as a reminder that the eye of Phnom Penh is never too far away. We see a number of men in camouflage uniforms walking through the market or cycling around town, but it's hard to tell which of them are actually military. Many here are so poor that their old uniform is the best pair of clothes they have.

A vomen works at a food stand in the evening
We are directed to the only hotel in town, which also doubles as a karaoke bar and brothel. Our room is a tiny cube constructed of hastily placed slats of wood with gaps between them big enough to afford a clear view of the street. The walls are plastered with posters of Thai actresses. The sound of off-key karaoke ballads and tinny pop music is deafening. The proprietress sprays down the red satin coverlet with disinfectant and smiles at us in welcome.

In the middle of the night, we're awakened from a miraculous moment of light sleep by loud shouting in the room next to us. Two soldiers are fighting over the only girl on duty, brandishing their rifles, threatening to kill each other.

One of them is going from room to room violently shaking the locked doors looking for another companion. I wake up to pounding on our door as one of them tries to break the lock on our flimsy doorknob. Too hot and exhausted to be nervous, I growl at the intruder to go away as only a former New Yorker can. The next thing I know it is dawn.

NEXT: ANLONG VENG: Pol Pot's Grave

back to top