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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - On the Thai road to Pailin...

On the Thai road to Pailin...

Ros Sokhet, tried to get to Pailin through the backdoor by using a short

detour via Thailand.

PHUM DOUNG - The best way to get to this Khmer

Rouge controlled village from anywhere else in Cambodia is to pass thru Thailand

- in fact its almost the only way, at least from Battambang.

And it helps

to have a bundle of Thai baht to pay for the fares along the way.

Even

the Cambodian policemen at the Thai border readily accept their backhanders in

baht.

To get to Phum Doung, which sits about 15km within Cambodian

territory near the western border, you start out from Battambang, pass thru

Sisophon and take a taxi down Route 5 to Poipet. A turn-off about 2km from

Poipet gets you to Ou Chruv (Deep Ditch) and the Thai border.

There, the

Post was stopped by a group of Cambodian policemen lounging around. One, lying

in a hammock, asked: "Where are you going to?"

Told that the reporter

wanted to see a relative in Pailin whom he had visited before, the policeman

asked for identification cards and held out his hand for 300 baht.

He was

eventually haggled down to 200 baht, and waved the reporter through. On the

other side of the border are the Thai taxi drivers, waiting for Cambodian

passengers.

"No problem for you to pass onto Thai soil to get to Khmer

Rouge territory," lectured one driver, "but you can't stay for days or hours on

my soil."

For 200 baht, the driver takes his Khmer passenger 3km down the

road and crosses back into Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge-controlled Phum Khla

Ngorp (Dead Tiger Village).

There, dozens of KR villagers sell a variety

of goods imported from Thailand, including beer, vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs,

chickens, rice, clothes and even perfume and make-up.

Thai businessmen

sat in cafes, lunching, drinking beer and smoking.

From there its a 60

baht moto ride - from a Khmer Rouge villager - to Phum Doung, a rebel camp 60

kms. north of Pailin.

Oum Phen, the Khmer Rouge cadre who says he has

been in charge of Phum Doung since 1979, tells you that you can go no

further.

All the Khmer Rouge civilians have been moved out of Pailin;

it's strictly soldiers-only there now.

In and around Phum Doung,

advertising posters in Thai appear on trees and are pasted to shop fronts,

restaurants and houses.

Oum Phen says he cannot give figures on the

number of Thai businesses which were in Pailin until civilians were ordered

out.

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