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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
ANLONG VENG: Pol Pot's Grave
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