2019 October Cambodia

I spent the first few weeks of October on a programme in Cambodia designed to investigate areas impacted by war, primarily along the Viet Nam – Cambodia border, stretching from Svay Rieng in the south (in the middle of the “Parrots Beak”), up through Romeas Haek, Memot, Snuol and Mondulkiri in the north. Much of our work involved meeting with villagers and interviewing elders who were eyewitness to the numerous conflicts that impacted Cambodia, starting in the early 1960’s when the US first became involved in the Vietnam conflict. The north Vietnamese had military supply routes starting above the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separated north and south Viet Nam. This network of trails swung through Laos and Cambodia – and is commonly known as the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. Although Cambodia was officially neutral in the conflict, it suffered enormous damage from heavy bombing (B-52’s, napalm etc.), herbicide spraying (including Agent Orange), large scale military incursions by US forces, the use of CS gas bombs, heavy artillery bombardments etc. – which laid waste to large tracks of the country, destroyed the economy, and resulted in political and social chaos. Following the unification of Viet Nam, the Cambodians then endured further brutality under the Khmer Rouge, followed by an invasion by Vietnamese forces to oust  the Khmer Rouge, then many years of internal strife and warfare. Given everything the country has gone through it was amazing to see the progress made since my last visit over 10 years ago. Phnom Penh was unrecognizable, with vast construction and new buildings everywhere. The road network is hugely improved, electricity and cell-phone/internet service was ubiquitous in areas we visited and people were uniformly generous and friendly during our interactions with them. A truly remarkable people who deserve a time of peace and prosperity. A few photos our our trip can be seen by clicking this link or the embedded photo.