Not sure if any of you have heard the news....Things have heated up at the Thailand-Cambodian border, at Preah Vihear ...precisely where Gordon and I spent the day touring just this past Sunday. At about 3 pm (Cambodian time) on February 4, shelling and heavy artillery fire began, and continued for about 2 hours. During that interval, two Cambodian soldiers and one Thai villager were killed. Here is the report from the Thai perspective. There has been an ongoing dispute over this section of the border.
In the heat of the midday sun, just five days ago, our group wandered among the ruins at Preah Vihear, and strolled through the army encampment just below the temple. We chatted freely with many of the soldiers, including a Colonel who appeared to be in charge. The situation appeared amazingly calm, although there were heavy armaments at the ready. Large machine guns were in place. Soldiers wore their guns slung over their shoulders. Bunkers had been fashioned out of cement sewer pipes and covered with sandbags.
I took many pictures of the soldiers while we were there. Some wore flip-flops. Some seemed barely out of their teens, but I could have been mistaken, because Cambodians wear their age so well. And now these pictures haunt me....I stare at their faces and wonder....Are all of these men still alive, or did I unwittingly capture the memory of those two souls who gave their lives in defense of their country?
As I write this at 7 am the day after, I have not been able to learn if the fighting has stopped or still continues. To those of you who may be concerned for our safety, or for others vacationing in Cambodia, have no fear. We are about 5 hours away from this isolated conflict, and I highly doubt there is any need for alarm.
I doubt there will be tourists or visitors allowed near Preah Vihear temple for some time, certainly not until well after the border dispute has been resolved. I imagine many tourists will avoid it out of fear. We were probably one of the last groups to see this magnificent complex before the fighting erupted, and now I realize just how lucky we really were.