When the Indo-China war spilled over into the Khmer Republic nearly two years ago, two of the hardest-hit towns were Saang and Heak Luong.
When the Indo-China war spilled over into the Khmer Republic nearly two years ago, two of the hardest-hit towns were Saang and Heak Luong. Both were devastated in the early fighting.
Today they present a vivid contrast. Saang, 23 miles south-east of Phnom Penh, has been totally abandoned by the civilian population. The once attractive town of more than 4,000 people was battered during three battles and has fallen into a state of decay and ruin.
The only people who live there today are a few Khmer soldiers and their families. The Communist frontline is only 500 yards away - just beyond the point where the once busy Route 21 peters out into the jungle which has overgrown it.
The chances of Saang coming alive again are nil right now as it is int he middle of an area used by the Communist for storing supplies and infiltrating troops into neighbouring South Vietnam.
But just 18 miles south-east of Saang it is a totally different story. Heak Luong, a ferry crossing point on the Mekong River, was also battered in the early fighting, but today is prospering as never before.
It is a kind of border town between South Vietnam and the Khmer Republic where goods from Saigon and Phnom Penh - including the black market - are bought and sold.
Much of the business has been generated by South Vietnamese troops using the town as a base. But next week they are pulling out - and Heak Luong could suffer the same fate as Saang.
With only a few Khmer troops defending the town, the Communists are expected to try to recapture it. Whoever controls Heak Luong controls the two vital arteries of the war in this area: the Mekong and Route One linking Phnom Penh and Saigon.