La Paix as we know it now was opened seven years ago. But the original La Paix was built in 1957 by Dap Chhuon, an anti-French Khmer Issarak guerrilla fighter or warlord.
He became governor of Siem Reap, built La Paix in 1957, but was executed in 1959 after his arrest on suspicion of plotting a coup against King Sihanouk.
This is how Time magazine, in its March 16, 1959 issue, reported on the departure of the hotel’s owner.
“Something to Chew On. The most respected soldier in Cambodia was Dap Chhuon (pronounced Chew-on). As a reward for his brilliant rise from French army corporal—dap means corporal—to guerrilla leader, against first the French and then the Communist Viet Minh, Dap Chhuon had been named Royal Delegate and Governor of the Siemréap area… Slim, natty Dap Chhuon made Siemréap his personal fief with three battalions of Cambodia’s 31,000-man army under his personal command.
“Recently Communist informers reported to Sihanouk that Dap Chhuon planned, with help from Thailand, to assassinate the Premier, overthrow the monarchy and establish an anti-Communist republic.
Sihanouk dispatched a battalion to Siemréap with orders to get Dap Chhuon, dead or alive.
“Dap Chhuon fled in the night into the jungles in his under-sarong. Last week, acting on another tip, Sihanouk’s forces captured him. Shortly afterward the government announced that Dap Chhuon had died “of injuries,” but had made “important revelations” first to his captors.
“Message to Ike. Pictures of Dap Chhuon’s bleeding body were posted in triumph on the trees lining Pnompenh’s avenues, and Sihanouk flew a delegation of foreign diplomats into Siemréap to show them the 'proof' of a plot—two captured Vietnamese radio operators, $4,000,000 worth of gold, and a purported message to Cambodian exiles in Thailand asking the strength of their forces…Demanding to know why the US ,if not involved, had not told him of the plot, Sihanouk fired off a message to President Eisen hower asking US intervention to prevent “further subversion” of Cambodia with US arms.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Olszewski at [email protected]