ANLONG Veng, the last war-torn district of Oddar Meanchey province, is welcoming the development that replaced the sound of weapons and explosives more than a decade ago.
The district suffered badly during the civil war as former members of the Khmer Rouge fought against government troops.
Anlong Veng, which borders two of Thailand’s provinces—Sisaket and Sorin — was integrated with the central government in 1998.
Yim Phanna, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who defected to the Phnom Penh government and has served since 2006 as governor of Anlong Veng, is proud of the dist-rict’s achievements.
“Our district was the last one in Cambodia to gain peace but, luckily for us, it receives a lot of attention from the government, which is focused on strengthening the peace.”
Yim Phanna says Anlong Veng has 8114 households in 57 villages (excluding the 10 index villages), with a total population of 37, 044.
He says that although the district was the last to emerge from civil war, it has attracted people from all walks of life.
“This is an unbelievable place. It was the last area of Cambodia to gain peace, but government delegates compliment us on our progress and evaluate our district as having good security.”
Yim Phanna also has a different view from those who think only of the tragedies that occurred during the Khmer Rouge regime.
“Sometimes people say this area is ex-Khmer Rouge, and that it’s full of cruel, ignorant people,’’ he says.
“But when foreigners come here, they just shake their heads and say: ‘The people here seem different — they’re so well-behaved, so honest, so innocent.’ These are the qualities they value.
“Now, having achieved peace, what we have to do is to build our human resources and develop the local economy.”
In the context of the economy, Yim Phanna says Anlong Veng is encouraging the construction of hotels, guesthouses, stores and a casino at the Choam Sa-Ngam border checkpoint.
“It’s an honour for our district, so we have to co-operate with investors and give them every chance,” he says.
Yim Phanna says the $50 million casino development is due to be completed at the end of this year. Lim Heng, the main investor in the project, declined to provide details of the project and referred questions to the governor.
Yim Phanna expresses optimism that after the hotels and casino open their doors, there will be more job opportunities for Anlong Veng residents, both in those properties and in support businesses.
“We have the honour of hosting these developments, so we have to do whatever we can and seize the opportunity,” he says.
As well as the development concentrated around the border crossing, Anlong Veng has the potential to become a focus for historical tourism because it contains 14 important sites connected with the Pol Pot regime.
They include Pol Pot’s cave, Son Sen’s house, the Khmer Rouge leaders’ camp, Pol Pot’s cremation site, a weapons warehouse, Ta Mok’s house, Ta Mok’s hospital and Ta Mok’s bridge.
“The government has identified Anlong Veng as a site for historical tourism. If we are able to develop it here, it will be like having an ancient temple,” Yim Phanna says.