Dark Tourism tends to be one of the most misunderstood genres around. Far from being a bunch of misery chasing bastards, dark tourists tend to be interested in contemporary issues related to tourism, no matter how terrible they may be. This, in contrast, to simply looking at really old temples. Have you heard the phrase “templed out”? Dark tourists do not suffer from this.
It was with this in mind and our single-hearted unity that the Weird World Wire Team headed to Along Veng the last bastion of the Khmer Rouge.
If you’ve never heard of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, check this link, or alternatively read my bite-sized review.
The Khmer Rouge were a communist rebel group that was in power in Cambodia from 1975-1979. To say that had a somewhat warped view of what a socialist utopia might look like would be an understatement. They emptied the cities into the countryside in some kind of agrarian/cultural revolution style experiment and then embarked on what is now known as the “Killing Fields.” During their time in power, they managed to kill 1/4 of the Cambodian population. A batting average that would even the Nazis blush.
After being overthrown, you’d have assumed that this would have been the end of the Khmer Rouge, but due to the mega lolz of the cold war, they were supported by the western powers against the new Vietnamese backed government of the Peoples Republic of Kampuchea. The muttering bastards were even allowed to keep their seat at the UN! Great lady of the people Maggie the milk snatcher even declared that they “were not all that bad.”. You can’t get higher praise than that.
When peace finally arrived in Cambodia in 1993, the Khmer Rouge were presented with the choice of joining the peace process or pissing in the pool. Releasing that not that many people would vote for a group that had killed one in four people and left the country littered with landmines, the Khmer Rouge set up the unrecognized Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia (PGNUNSC). This rump state-controlled just 6% of the population but would continue to wreak havoc until 1999 from their base in Anlong Veng.
We decided to visit Anlong Veng.
Where Is Along Veng?
Along Veng is located on the Thai border, which was handy for the Khmer Rouge as they got most of their weapons from the Thais. It is around a 3-hour drive from the tourist hell hole of Siem Reap. We’re not going to list bus routes here, rent a car with a driver it’s really cheap.
What Is There to See in Anlong Veng?
The principal or rather only reason to come here is to get your Khmer Rouge jollies on. A lot of the old top brass lived here, but it is most famous for its links to Pol Pot, Son Sen and Ta Mok. In case you’ve not heard about Ta Mok, he was the last leader of the Khmer Rouge and when it comes to Anlong Veng, quite the man about town. You can read more about him here.
When it comes to trip highlights, you’d be hard-pressed to beat this. In the end, Pol Pot was somewhat paranoid, so he built a bunker deep in the jungle. Getting here needs motorbikes, no fear of death and enough Khmer to ask locals for directions. Saying Pol Pot + ? Seemed to work OK though. Despite the arduous march to get here, it is well worth it. You are greeted with a bunker compound that is a testament to how scared the Khmer Rouge regime was in its dying days.
Another major highlight of visiting here is you are unlikely to bump into a woke elephant pant wearing Lonely Planet holder. This is not woke tourism.
Worth staying the night?
Technically you could do this as a day trip, but then you’d miss Anlong Veng by night. We heard tale of the kind of KTV frequented by truckers, but made do with $2 Khmer Whisky and a nighttime trip to the grave of Pol Pot.