HENG Sothy runs one of the many small shops that have congregated around the border crossing at Prun. She and her husband went there in 2002 from Phnom Penh, where the couple’s two child-ren still study.
“Pailin has changed a lot,” Heng Sothy, 39, says. “There are a lot of casinos now. When I first came here, there were only two casinos.”
Heng Sothy’s main business is selling shoes, clothes, toiletries and sunglasses to the Khmers who work at the casinos.
Business is gradually growing – something that Heng Sothy partly attributes to the paving of the main road to the border a few years ago.
“Now more people come to visit Prun,” she says. “Foreigners also cross through this border to get to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.”
Heng Sothy says that during the recent border conflict with Thailand over Preah Vihear, many people fled from Prun, fearing the Thais might invade, even though they were a long distance from the fighting.
“We share a border,” she says. “Some people were afraid, so they went away.”
Heng Sothy remained, but it was no act of bravery. Rather, she feared losing everything to looters.
“Once before, when I went to Phnom Penh, they [burglars] broke into my house and stole a lot of my belongings,” she says.
“If they broke in again, I would lose everything.”
For Heng Sothy, ongoing peace is the key to business success.
“If we do not have conflict, the fut-ure for this town is good,” she says.
“But if there is conflict with Thailand and they close the border, then everything is finished. I would go back to Phnom Penh.”
INTERPRETER: RANN REUY