Another Cambodian Jungle Mystery – The Case Of Sihanouk’s Vanishing Head.

Another Cambodian Jungle Mystery – The Case Of Sihanouk’s Vanishing Head.

 Above Photo: It used to be here….

When we were in Ratanakiri Province in eastern Cambodia, we visited a town called Lumphat, where we were about to be shown one of the glories of the Province, a bust of the former Prince Sihanouk, who is revered in Cambodia and who used to have a Palace in the town, having fled here when he’d been deposed by a US-friendly military coup in Phnom Penh in 1970.

The centre of Lumphat town, Ratanakiri, Cambodia.

The centre of Lumphat town, Ratanakiri, Cambodia.

I say Lumphat’s a town, but it’s now nothing more than ruins and a few houses, having been bombed into oblivion by US planes during the Vietnam War, and it has never recovered.

It used to be a major centre for North Vietnamese troops and supplies moving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War, and the Khmer Rouge were also based in the region during that time, fighting against the right wing government of Cambodia and also helping the North Vietnamese during the war.

The elaborate shrine built to house Sihanouk's head in Lumphat.

The elaborate shrine built to house Sihanouk’s head in Lumphat.

Sihanouk had fled to Lumphat after he was deposed and we were heading to the grounds of a bombed former high school to see a monument which consisting of a bust of his head, which the guide was very proud about.

When we arrived, a Chinese road-building company had set up operations in the school, and they were building (another) fast road to the nearby Vietnamese border (no doubt so more of the illegally-logged Cambodian jungle could disappear across it as officials turn a blind eye and bulging bank balance towards the trade).

The Chinese company's road-building camp, in the grounds of the former high school and right next to the empty shrine of the missing head.

The Chinese company’s road-building camp, in the grounds of the former high school and right next to the empty shrine of the missing head.

When we arrived at the place, our guide was shocked to see Sihanouk’s head had simply disappeared.

He was outraged, and pointed the finger at the squatting Chinese road company, hot-footing it into Lumphat to tell the head of the village about the theft.

The French-style decoration on Sihanouk's empty shrine.

The French-style decoration on Sihanouk’s empty shrine.

By the time we left there, a cross between a lynch mob and an official delegation was being prepared to go and confront the Chinese company to discover what had happened to Sihanouk’s head.

I’d love to know what happened afterwards, but the empty monument was nicely decorated at least.

For a modern-day take on the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnam War and Adventure Backpackers trekking in the Cambodian jungle, see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/

For POWs left behind in Laos, see also:

© Peter Alan Lloyd

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Front cover of BACK Part 1.

Front cover of BACK Part 1.

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Front cover of BACK Part 2.

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