Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The main building at Ta Mok's residence, which contains the wall-paintings, two upper floors and a basementTa Mok's townhouse and the eerie man-made lake that surrounds it are completely devoid of life. Perhaps fitting for a man believed to have the blood of thousands on his hands when he died in 2006, cheating justice as did the former leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot seven years earlier. Whatever the residents of Anlong Veng may say, Ta Mok will be recalled as a brutal KR commander, who perhaps mellowed in his later years whilst in the comfort zone of his northern Cambodia fiefdom, but the history books will paint a very different picture of The Butcher. If plans for a museum in the former KR stronghold take root, it's important that the image it creates of Ta Mok is a clear one, not fuzzied by time or apparent reverence. Today the dam and lake he created, by drowning the blackened tree trunks that jut skywards, is a constant reminder of the death wreaked by this man throughout his life. But speak to one of his former charges in the town and you'll hear a very different story. Ta Mok's house is a regular stop on the Anlong Veng 'KR tourist circuit' that is just about all that is going for the place, though with its close proximity to the border with Thailand, the town has certainly prospered in the six years since my last visit. Sturdy tree trunks form the inside struts for Ta Mok's house, there's a profusion of western-style toilets, ceramic floor tiles and a small shrine with a few dusty incense sticks and a badly-eroded sandstone lion are all that remain, surrounded by the amateurish wall-paintings on two floors. Outside, and on three sides, the lake is deadly quiet and a lasting legacy left by the military chief of the Khmer Rouge.
One of the western-style toilets favoured by the one-legged KR military chief Ta Mok - I imagine it's easier to sit than squat if you have one leg