Siem Reap remains a deserted town under siege since the pro-Sihanouk forces took control of the surrounding area-which includes the Angkor Wat temples nearby.
Siem Reap remains a deserted town under siege since the pro-Sihanouk forces took control of the surrounding area-which includes the Angkor Wat temples nearby. The town, about 140 miles (235 kilometres) north-west of Phnom Penh, relies entirely on tourism and the presence (since early June) of the Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops has had the effect of an economic blockade.
The Cambodia Government, who recently deposed Prince Sihanouk as head of State, have expressed concern about the temples and have sought the world's advice on what action to take. More than 200 temples are situated in the vast ruins of the ninth Century Khmer capital of Angkor Wat, and are considered to be one of South-east Asia's major tourist attractions.
In Siem Reap, business is bad. Many people have sought sanctuary from the war by moving into the Buddhist Pagodas by tradition neutral ground.
Four thousand Cambodian troops - mostly recruits - guard the town against an estimated 1,500 enemy forces. The daily flight from Phnom Penh remains the town's principal link with the rest of the country. All of the roads out of the town are either in the control of the pro-Sihanouk forces or are considered extremely unsafe. Tourism was Cambodia's biggest earner of foreign currency before the war in Indo-China spread into the country. Angkor Wat provided a major part of that income. Cambodian farmers in the region say that the temples have been unharmed in their six-week occupation.
Several pieces of sculpture from the temples were taken to Siem Reap before the war in Indo-China spilled over into Cambodia. But they represent only a fraction of the treasures of Angkor Wat. The real glory in Angkor Wat lies in the architecture of the temples, the reliefs in the walls and the intricate carvings above the doors.
The pro-Sihanouk forces remain solidly in control as was shown with the capture of three French journalists in the area a week age. The Cambodian Army itself is not strong enough to tackle the Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces and they have strict orders not to endanger the safety of the Angkor Wat temples.