Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A Day of Beauty & Remembrance...

We spent all day getting to the fabulous cliff-top temples of Preah Vihear, a UNESCO World-Heritage site that the Thais and Cambodians have been fighting over recently...

Now that Cambodian Pime Minister Hun Sen's daughter has built a road up the hill from Cambodia, you can finally access the temples from the Cambodian side. I was the only Westerner there. The views were phenomenal, with Cambodia stretched out below. It was special to be there with By (photo, standing to the right - the woman on the left without the hat is
Phirom, an accountant and house mother with the Santhepheap Orphanage or "Children's House of Peace" in Siem Reap), who was one of 30,000 Cambodian refugees trying to escape the Khmer Rouge into Thailand who were forced over these cliffs by Thai troops 30 years ago when they drove the refugees back into Cambodia. More than 10,000 died in the awful melée that ensued. I was just across the border in Thailand working as a young doctor in a refugee camp and remember the terrible stories recounted by desperate Cambodian refugees who had made it across the border.

We met a Lt. Colonel who, as an orphan, joined the miltary at age 17. Now in charge of the Cambodian troops guarding Preah Vihear, he has formed a classical orchestra of young soldiers, having them make music instead of war. When he helped the U.S. Amassador to Cambodia after an accident leaving the temples, they wanted to give him money but he asked for instruments instead.

It added a lot to have the traditional music permeating the setting, perched on the cliffs affected by the beauty of the temples and the view, yet with room to remember the suffering of so many Cambodians at that very spot over 30 years ago...
(Dr Daniel Susott, AAI Medical Director)

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