Another Cambodian Jungle Mystery – The Case Of Sihanouk’s Vanishing Head.
Above Photo: It used to be here, honest.
One one of my recent BACK-related research trips into north-eastern Cambodia, I visited a town called Lumphat in Ratanakiri Province. We were about to be proudly shown one of the glories of the Province, a bust of 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.
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.
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).
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.
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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