Thursday, October 27, 2016


This bunker was part of Pol Pot's jungle hideout, close to the border with Thailand
I’m looking at what used to be someone’s hidden jungle home. The owner of this remote abode in northern Cambodia was one of the 20th century's most genocidal maniacs.

What was once a solid military compound, has greatly deteriorated. Looking at the ruins, I can tell from the remaining foundations that there were four brick buildings. Only one has a couple of walls still standing. There are short, twin concrete water towers. Remains of a grey brick security wall no longer keep anyone out. Most of the rest of this important compound has been torn down, and carted away. Bricks were sold as scrap, or used for building elsewhere. 

This ruined home belonged to Pol Pot, the undisputed leader of the murderous Khmer Rouge.

Now that the megalomaniac that lived here is gone, nature is taking over again. Weeds creep up through cracks in the foundations. The wind blows leaves and dirt across broken tiles. Saplings are growing on the untrimmed lawn.

Pol Pot, genocidal Khmer Rouge leader
There is only one structure here that is nearly intact; an old bunker near the edge of the mountain ridge. 

I climb atop the red brick shelter, and peer through the young brush. I have a commanding view of this land east of Choam. This house in Cambodia looks like nothing now, but it still has a great view over the vast plain far below.

His real name was 'Saloth Sar', and he was born in a village near Kompong Thom in 1925. At one time he worked as a carpenter. Ironic that he worked in a building trade, since he went on to lead the destruction of his own country.

In his student years, he went to study in France. It was there that he was introduced to radical communism (just like Ho Chi Minh before him.) Although the communist party in Cambodia was first founded and led by other Khmers, Pol Pot later took over the party in 1963, when few had ever heard of him.

As I look around his former compound, I find it rather small for such a powerful leader. Did Pol Pot actually spend much time here? Much like the celebrated home of Ho Chi Minh that I saw in Hanoi, and the cave home of Kaysone that I saw in Laos, the number of nights that Pol Pot actually slept here is disputed. 
2 Army guards helped push-start our car

This remote compound wasn’t even built until after 1978, when the Vietnamese Army drove the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh and out into the jungles. The reason that Pol Pot had a house built for him here, was the proximity to the Thai border. Whenever a Vietnamese or Cambodian Army offensive threatened to capture the Khmer Rouge leadership, they simply fled to safety out of reach in Thailand, only a few kilometers north.

There are two unarmed soldiers guarding this infamous house. I approach the sargeant in charge, a short soldier with a boyish face. 

Where are you from?” I ask.

Siem Reap Province,” he answers.

Were you Khmer Rouge?” I inquire.

No, I Hun Sen Army,” he says proudly. There’s no question where his allegiances lie. The other soldier wearing a tee shirt also says his loyalty is to Hun Sen. Apparently the Hun Sen government doesn’t trust the former Khmer Rouge soldiers that live down the road to guard the house of Pol Pot. That's not surprising. They were once 'comrades', until Hun Sen defected to Pol Pot's sworn enemy, the Vietnamese.

The lowest level below is now occupied by snakes
With the soldiers watching, I check out the bunker. The doors are gone, looted long ago. Two small entrances lead into the bunker's lower basement, where nature’s debris has taken root, along with a few animals. I peer down into the shadows, and hear some rustling movement in the debris.

Snakes down there,” my guide Shanghai says. Somehow, it's fitting that Pol Pot’s bunker has become a snake pit.

We shake hands with the lonely soldiers, and say goodbye. We climb into Shanghai's car, only to discover that the battery is dead.

The two helpful 'Hun Sen' soldiers and I give it a push start, Shanghai's old vehicle sputters to life, and we’re on our way out. 

As we leave the genocidal leader's house in our rear view mirror, I’m thankful that I don’t have to spend a night out here in the jungle.

Most of the compound was looted; 2 old water towers remain

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