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Three Days at Preah Vihear

Preah Vihear Temple
Little Fun in Warzone

Friends will be there for you at war or peace.
Looking from afar…

Soldier calling a family member from atop Soldiers patroling on the edge of the mountain

Soldier standing guard at Preah Vihear Temple

Thai soldiers protecting their area,high ground.

It’s time to go home?No, they’re there days and nights.
Photos by KKnila
With support and help of KCF (Khmer Civilization Foundation), Seila, Geoff and I got on a 12-seated mini-bus to Preah Vihear, along with other Cambodian journalists. Anxious, excited and eager, we arrived at Preah Vihear early in the evening though we left Phnom Penh for it around 5 am. I was very impressed with the sight of the ruins at the beginning. Nothing could shock me as much as broken pieces of one of the temples we stepped on. The Cambodian flag was moving through the wind. Sometimes, there was no wind but it moved because our heart was moving back and forth, calling for a solution and peace for everyone.

Talking about the first day we were there, we three hurried to explore all the parts of the Preah Vihear temple. I took all the pictures, of course, as many as I could, from the footage of the mountain to the top. Nothing could stop me from taking photos of Cambodian and Thai soldiers sitting down for rest on the way up to the mountain. I was surprised by their patience and determination to even sleep on the way. The night soon fell and we wasted no time so intervied two soldiers about what happened and what they thought about the upcoming elections. I was chilled by the cold night. We almost could have listened to the Cambodian soldiers’ meeting! They shooed us away! That night, my friend and I were sleeping on two tables previously used in an official meeting. ūüôā

The next day was quite happy. I got up early, very bored with the cold that mountaintop gave me. I’d rather not sleep than lying down dying in cold. Later, we rushed to the cliff of the mountain where we could get a phone service/coverage. All those journalists were so busy calling their editors, family members or somebody! We posed for very nice photos. ūüôā Blurrrr! With socks on my feet and a long-sleeved blouse, coldness could still cover my skin. We later went to the pagoda called “Preah Vihear Pagoda” or “Keo Seka Kiri Sarak”. What a heart-breaking sight! There were about four poor buildings. The biggest one was where everyone could pray to God Buddha. The monks were staying inside their monasteries. There were just a few monasteries. The Cambodian and Thai soldiers were scattered everywhere around the pagoda. They were looking, non stop. Back behind the monasteries, a group of Thai deminers were chatting and taking a rest. We couldnt’get to the high ground those Thai deminers took up and shooed us away from. What were they doing there? I was wondering.

We walked around the pagoda, listening to a rather standing crowd, one of whom was Mr. Phay Sipha, Cabinet spokesperson. I was wondering what those Thai soldiers thought. They were told or commanded by their commanders to come and do what? The questions filled my mind. I was thinking the same thing about the Cambodian soldiers. The situation was very calm at the pagoda on that day (Saturday). We three played around like monkeys. We took pictures of ourselves, posed with the Khmer and Thai soldiers and were called by an AP photographer as Stars of Preah Viihear.

I miss the days and nights there. I miss the border gate and the market very close to the border. I miss looking at those Thai and Khmer soldiers. I miss the pagoda. I miss the monks, nuns, local people and the vendors I saw there. I miss the nooldes I ate in the mornings there. I miss the tables I slept on. I miss the filthy floor I could get through the cold night with. I miss the internet access on the top of the mountain when I miss having no phone coverage. I miss wildness in my feeling. I miss walking around Preah Vihear temple. I miss listening to people telling me their stories. I miss looking at the ruins. I miss thinking of what it woudl have been like if I had gone 900 years back. I miss walking with other journalists. I miss being angry about their remarks about me as the only girl. I miss looking at the doctors from KCF curing sick soldiers and local peole. I miss Preah Vihear temple. I miss the crowd. I miss the long trip. I miss everyone I traveled with all day long. After all, I want ot be back againt to the place, enjoying the crude feelings of a bit fun and danger (as other people told me). I want no fighting, clashes or even stare between the Thai and Cambodian soldiers. I am thinking about their family members for them. I want them to know that Preah Vihear will be there forever and whoever claims it belongs to them will not stay here forever. And whoever won’t have it will not
stay here forever either. The earth will one day meet its end. With an inch to death will they realize that nothing matters as this precious breath does to them? Everything seems to have been much policitized, commercialized and dramatized.

One thought on “Three Days at Preah Vihear

  1. Well; the life of low ranking servicemen and women are not so glamous as those of their superior. They would camp, eat and sleep wheresoever they could, in a dry or wet areas, in open space or bushes, however, their spirit and moral are always high in time of such needs.

    Surrounding areas of Preah Vihear Temple were heavily mines during the war in 1970 and during the KR, laid by both sides [Thai and Cambodia] – if Thai soldiers think that they can go down hill and not stepping on mines then they would really face the consequences, it would have enough for each every one of them. I still recall about the forced down hill trip by the Thai during the early 1979. With all lucks and good karma, we survived.

    Seemed this trip inspire you a lot, about everything, from life of innocent people, soldiers, their living standard, the coldness and fresh air at the mountain.

    It’s indeed an interesting blog, and thank you for sharing with us.

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