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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Refuge in a Wat

Refuge in a Wat

Tourists flocking to Angkor Wat have been replaced by penniless refugees fleeing

attacks from the Khmer Rouge.

More than 40 families have sought sanctuary at the monument's grounds after their

villages were ransacked by the Khmer Rouge on the same day that the guerrillas launched

a full-scale assault on Siem Reap.

Some lay out mats on the floor of passageways inside the buildings, others have created

crude shelters within Angkor Wat's grounds.

Many eke out a living during the day and return to the shelter of the world-famous

shrine to Khmer culture at night.

One of the refugees, Samnang Ladch, 31, said: "The Khmer Rouge attacked our

village two kilometres away, stole everything and burnt our houses down. We just

threw some clothes into a bag and ran for our lives.

"What you see is all we have left. We left some gold behind in the house and

I'm sure the Khmer Rouge stole it."

Sambaing erected a shelter for himself, his wife and two young children by draping

some matting over two metal poles driven into the ground.

They and the other families are using water taps intended for use by workers renovating

the monument.

Samnang said: "We are too frightened to return to our villages, we fear the

Khmer Rouge will return.

"All we can hope for is that something good will come from the election and

the Khmer Rouge will be driven off so we can return to our normal lives."

A Cambodian People's Armed Forces (CPAF) post has been set up near the ancient temple

and the refugees are confident that the State of Cambodia will not let it fall into

guerrilla hands.

While Angkor Wat is proving a magnet for refugees, the May 3 rampage through Siem

Reap and subsequent rocket attacks have temporarily killed the tourist trade stone

dead.

This reporter encountered only one other group of Westerners-a Canadian film crew

who were making a pre-election documentary.

The juvenile vendors of film and souvenirs who normally throng the monument were

down to a bare handful.

Even a hill commonly used as a vantage point for sunset and sunrise photographs of

Angkor Wat is now off limits after CPAF troops laid mines in the pathway up to it

to thwart further Khmer Rouge attacks.

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