Oddar Meanchey is one of the smallest provinces of Cambodia located in the far Northwest bordering with Thailand. Its name means Victory Province and the provincial capital is called Samraong. This area was formerly known as Phanomsok, a province of Thailand, which was ceded to French Indochina in 1906, and now remains a part of Cambodia. This province is also a recent creation that was carved out of Siem Reap Province, which the government did not control for much of the 1980s and 1990s.
The countryside is covered by the Dangrek Mountains (or escarpment, as they are sometimes called), which was an optimal shelter for the Khmer Rouge to hide. It is a very remote province that has been a notorious place, because this is where he nastiest of the nasty Khmer Rouge made their last stand. The diabolical Pol Pot and his seemingly bloodthirsty henchmen, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Son Sen and Khieu Samphan holed up here for the last years of the Khmer Rouge’s existence (another of the henchmen, Ieng Sary, already worked out a surrender and defection deal with the government in 1996).
Pol Pot died mysteriously here, after a supposed power struggle within the power elite (he had Son Sen and his family murdered) and after a controversial show trial. The debate focused on whether it was real or just a sham staged for the outside world to try to legitimize remaining Khmer Rouge figures. The trial took place in the power centre of the Khmer Rouge, the village of Anlong Veng. Pol Pot died mysteriously after he was sentenced to house arrest and the international community began real efforts (for the first time ever) to capture and put this butcher on trial.
His henchmen had more than enough reasons to believe that he wasn’t dead at that point, because a Pol Pot on trial, as the ringleader most responsible for the genocide wrought upon his fellow countrymen, would probably have tried to shift portions of the blame (rightfully in the case of these guys) to the rest of the power elite.
The Khmer Rouge kept fragmenting after that and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan worked out a surrender-amnesty deal with the Cambodian government and Ta Mok (also called The Butcher) was subsequently captured and is still awaiting a trial in Phnom Penh. As of March 2000, the United Nations and the Cambodian government finally seem set to come up with an agreement on putting the top surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime on trial in Cambodia, with assistance from and in a partnership with the International Community. Stay tuned though, as this has been a real political football with seemingly more concern for one-upsmanship and personal gain than justice for the dead and surviving victims of Khmer Rouge brutality.
The international border is 14.5 km from the circle in Anlong Veng (Anlong Veng-Choam-Choam- Srawngam and O Smach-Chong Jom). There are plenty of tanks and tank shells to look at along the way and also a strange site in the form of a boulder that had Khmer Rouge soldiers carved out of the sides of it- they have all been decapitated since government forces took control of Anlong Veng. Anyway, it’s an interesting little ride to a low-lying part of the Dangkrek Mountains. The road is in fairly good shape with the exception of the climb up a rocky hillside near the border.