In the Khmer Republic, the skeletons of burned out trucks mark out Highway Four as one of the country's most dangerous roads.
In the Khmer Republic, the skeletons of burned out trucks mark out Highway Four as one of the country's most dangerous roads. Constant Communist attacks have strangled this vital road link to the port that should be the country's most important lifeline -- Kompong Som.
This coverage from cameraman Jim Gerrand reports on how Kompong Som, the sole Khmer deepwater port, is facing up to the threat to its prosperity, Back in the days of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the deposed head of state, there were plans to develop the city into the second capital.
The overthrow of the Prince and subsequent war shattered the promise of prosperity. The Vietcong fought for control of Highway Four and simultaneously attacked the city's vital oil refinery -- there are threats of further sabotage if it ever restarts production.
The city's top luxury hotel stands almost empty and the beaches are deserted. In a city of paradoxes, only the casino thrives -- though gambling is supposedly outlawed.
There is little movement in the harbour. A cargo of timber, one of the country's few exports these days, was being loaded. A cargo of Japanese Red Cross material was being re-loaded -- because it couldn't be shipped inland by road. Even so, a few intrepid drivers can still be found to run the gauntlet of Highway Four. Some of them were filmed setting out on their dangerous trip.
SYNOPSIS: Burned out trucks along the length of Highway Four mark it out as one of the Khmer Republic's most dangerous roads. The route, which runs a hundred and fifty miles south-west from Phnom Penh to the port of Kompong Som, has been under virtual communist control since the start of the year.
Kompong Som is the country's only deepwater port. And to have it cut off from the capital, except by air, has dealt the country's economy a heavy blow. The effects are also to be found in Kompong Som itself. Only the local market thrives.
In the harbour, there's relatively little activity. A Japanese Red Cross ship was having to reload goods because they couldn't be sent inland by road. The odd cargo of wood is one of the country's few exports out of Kompong Som.
The city's oil refinery fell victim to a Viet Cong attack. They've threatened to attack again if production ever starts again.
Plans to develop Kompong Som as a beach resort have also ben sabotaged by the war. The luxury Hotel Independence, once crowded with holiday makers, now stands almost empty and is reportedly for sale.
Ironically, no amount of hostilities have stopped the action in the casino. It's ironic because gambling is outlawed. The police themselves reputedly supervise gambling.
And there are still a few intrepid drivers prepared to gamble their lives by carrying goods up Highway Four. They apparently have to pay the Communists and the government for the privilege.