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Pailin's KR want their own war museum

Pailin's KR want their own war museum

FORMER Khmer Rouge guerrillas want to establish a war museum in Pailin, their on-again off-again stronghold during their 17-year war with governments in Phnom Penh.

The museum, which they hope will attract international tourists, will display tanks destroyed and cannons captured during the war between 1979 and 1996.

"I think Pailin is not a rich gemstones area now, but it is still an interesting place to visit," says Pailin Governor Ee Chhean. "Most of people in the world have heard about the KR but they have never seen the KR place."

He says the idea for a tourist museum began to take shape "a few years ago" but had not yet been realized because of financial problems.

Keut Sothea, Pailin Second Deputy Governor and also a former Khmer Rouge commander, said at least nine of the government's tanks had been destroyed and one captured including one 152mm artillery piece and some other military hardware during a fierce government offensive against the KR in 1994.

Sothea, who said he does not want to talk about the fight between KR in Pailin and the government, says some of the tanks are missing as a few of them are still sitting on the roadside of Route 10.

Chhean said the museum plan alone is not strong enough to attract international tourists to Pailin - a bumpy four hours by road from Battambang. He wants Thailand to agree to change the current bilateral entry post into an international border crossing like those at Poipet and Koh Kong, so that international tourists could visit his town by coming direct from Thailand. This proposal is supported by Phnom Penh.

Pailin now has three bilateral border posts with Thailand. Of these, Chhean favoured raising Ta Prum to be an international entry, but said Thailand would not agree.

"I think to open the international entry through Pailin is very important. It will make the city more developed. We want the current entry to be an international standard but Thailand does not want," Chhean said.

He said tourists would be able to enjoy the beautiful natural landscape, jungle-covered mountains, waterfalls and ancient pagodas.

He said it would be quicker for tourists from Thailand to get to Battambang (and on to Phnom Penh) and Siem Reap provinces, through Pailin's Ta Prum crossing than through Poipet in the north, even though the road is bad.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech at a Tourism Workshop Conference in Siem Reap last month that the government was going to consider opening more international entries as much as possible to attract more tourists.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is trying to put that into action. Long Visalo, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Cambodia is trying to persuade neighboring countries to open more entries, but said it is hard work because the neighbors are unenthusiastic.

However, work was progressing, and he expected at least one more entry from Thailand to open. That would be Pailin's Ta Prum. At present Cambodia has two international entries from Thailand - Poipet and Koh Kong - and one from Vietnam at Bavet/Moc Bai.

"I am asking the Thai partner to open one more international entry," Visalo said. "If Thailand agrees, Pailin will be the third international entry [from Thailand]."

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