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Freitag, 22. April 2011

Part 5 - Preah Vihear No Man's Land

Crossing the border to Cambodia

The distance between the hill on the Thai side, described in the previous blog entry Part 4, and Preah Vihear is traversed by bullets and grenades too often nowadays. At peaceful times tourists and locals stroll along the road up to its end in no man’s land. On their way they pass an inconspicuous wooden shack, the Thai immigration and border point. Close by some uniformed army border controls might sit leisurely under a parasol having small talk and trying to kill time.

It’s easy to pass this point unrecognized and in ignorance, but a friendly call: “Hey, where are you going?” suggests that this is a place of some significance. After presenting the passport, signing a piece of paper and paying five Baht one may tune into the song: “Cambodia, here I come.” So it was in December 2006. The passport remains unharmed by any additional stamp. Five Baht is a ridiculous small amount. Far less than one EUR, USD, Pound Sterling or Swiss Frank. Amazing Thailand!

The road ends abruptly on a rocky plain of sandstone without transition.

After crossing a gate on a bridge over a small and filthy stream shabby dwellings receive the visitor. Some outlets present cheap cigarettes, cheap and faked spirituous brand beverages and perfumes as well as overpriced souvenirs. The whole little village is tacky and bare of any sanitary infrastructure. Thai people living in villages downstream and dependant on the water often complained in vane about the pollution caused by Cambodians. This settlement was leveled several times on Thai request with threat of force but popped up again and again. Since the renewed fighting between the two countries in 2011 this village is abandoned and wrecked.

According to the still binding agreement and attached maps signed by French Indochina and Siam in the year 1907 this little stream marks the national border between Thailand and Cambodia. Very unusual to say the least. This exceptional deviation from the natural borderline, which would be the edge and watershed of the Danrek escarpment, as it is elsewhere, means trouble…    

Nevertheless, the stone cased entrance of Preah Vihear greets the visitor during untroubled times. The Cambodians, preferring to be addressed as Khmers, ask for 200 Baht entrance fee.

Cautionary Remark: Whoever intends to visit Preah Vihear / Khao Pra Wihan should ask for advice beforehand. As of now, April 2011, the place is closed for visitors. Thai and Cambodian troops face each other in close proximity. Renewed battles could emerge at any time.   

stay tuned... 

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