There's been a war going on in Cambodia for the pat five years. The only?
There's been a war going on in Cambodia for the pat five years. The only thing that has changed in that time is the name. thy now call Cambodia the Khmer Republic. But the savage, destructive war being waged between a government which clings to power by the slenderest of threads, and insurgents who now control nine-tenths of the country, grinds on inexorably.
War is a way of life in this country. The capital, Phnom Penh, is under more or less continual bombardment from the guns and rockets of the insurgent Khmer Rouge.
There is not front line, for the fighting erupts and subsides in quick, deadly firefights. But anyone who wants to see the war has only to take a taxi out of Phnom Penh and they can find it.
The route east from the capital, along Highway One to Neak Luang is a regular taxi rn for many people going to the provincial town in search of food and supplies unobtainable in Phnom Penh.
It's a dangerous route. In places, bodies line the roadside. Heavily armed troops in military convoys roar up and down the highway. Sixty kilometres out of Phnom Pehn, the ferry across the Mekong river to Neak Luang comes under bombardment frequently and only an old government gunboat guards the crossing.
And in Neak Luang itself, more reminders of the war that neither side claims to want, but which neither seem able to stop. The town is badly damaged and sandbagged. In August last year, it was hit by American B 52's and still bears the scars. There is not much food in Neak Luang's market, but enough to attract the taxis from Phnom Penh. This is as far as anyone can safely go. Beyond Neak Luang, government control peters out.
But the most recent and heaviest fighting occured this summer to the North of Phnom Penh, when government forces pushed up Highway Five, through Khmer Rouge territory to the ancient town of Oudang, 30 kilometres away.
Once, this was a thriving centre and a former capital of Cambodia. Its principal landmark was an enormous pagoda housing a giant statue of Buddha - a relic dear to the hearts of Khmer Buddhists.
Now, the pagoda is shattered and the Buddha scarred by shrapnel and blackened with smoke.
The rest of the town is a ruin. Most of its inhabitants have long since fled and those that remain can only pick through the wreckage in the hope of finding something of their former lives.
Meanwhile, the United Nations session which opens on 18 September is due to debate the "Khmer question" and may even vote to decide whether to continue accepting the credentials of Marshal Lon Nol's government or to give recognition to the Khmer Rouge.
But it matters little to those who live ten thousand miles away from the conference halls of the UN.
For them, the reality of war is still only a taxi ride away.