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Talismans of the rural fight against malaria

'Ayong' puppet along Route 10 to Pailin

'Ayong' puppet along Route 10 to Pailin

The perennial dry-season fighting along Route 10 to Pailin is hopefully a thing of

the past. The war-ravaged zone has seen more than its share of conflict over the

last decade but now the guns are silent.

With peace, the road bustles with traffic as traders race back and forth between

the Thai border and Battambang in pickup trucks loaded to the gills with goods.

A deflated Thai baht means Coca-Cola, toothpaste and vegetables pour in daily, providing

a tidy source of revenue in "customs" fees for Ieng Sary's breakaway boys

in Pailin.

But villagers living along the improved highway must still suffer from the scourge

of malaria and the dangers of living near one of the most heavily-mined areas in

the world.

Five kilometers west of Rattanak Mondol, villagers eke out a rugged existence. Some

of the most pernicious strains of malaria are ever-present.

With little disposable income and almost non-existent government services, the people

here resort to more traditional means to try to ward off the dreaded disease by constructing

ayong (puppets) in front of their houses.

The one on the truncated Vespa (far right) may have run out of gas as the woman who

lives in the house behind said her children were suffering badly from "the fever".

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