The rigours of war and the constant fear of Communist attack on the people of The Khmer Republic have made it a nation of people on the move.
The rigours of war and the constant fear of Communist attack on the people of The Khmer Republic have made it a nation of people on the move. Refugees take to the roads from all over the land and head purposefully towards the capital Phnom Penh. The ancient city is like a place of pilgrimage for the hundreds of thousands of peasants fleeing from the forces of the insurgents.
Although Phnom Penh is regularly bombarded by artillery and rockets, the simple people are looking for safety and succour. It's becoming increasingly difficult to find either.
Too many people, too little food and essential supplies. Those are the basic problems. An even bigger problem, and one many of the poor find hard to understand, is inflation - galloping inflation racing away full tilt.
Soaring prices, shortages, poor wages for those who have work. All sections of the community are affected. The Middle Classes have been used to a high standard of living. They protest. Prime Minister Long Boret's Government fell last Thursday (13 June) after a censure motion accused the Government of not following the national economic, financial and security programme mapped out six months before. But the poor are bewildered and face a severe rice shortage.
In the shops and on the street market stalls there is food - at inflationary prices few can afford. Naturally, shortage pushes the prices even higher. Petrol is a scarce commodity - one not looked upon as a luxury by the thousands of moped owners who fill the streets of the city round-the-clock.
Restaurants have been ordered by the government to close on Mondays and Thursdays. Beef is sold only three times a week. Fish is very scarce with the salt water variety almost impossible to find in the city. And what fresh water fish there is costs about one sterling (two dollars fifty cents US) a kilo.
Vegetables were always plentiful in the capital and throughout the land. They were grown in abundance in the mountain areas. These lands are now mostly in the hands of the insurgents.
The fears of the people are becoming a reality. Those with money are spending it fast to live. The poor are poorer than they've ever been - and worse, they are hungry with no way to overcome their dire situation.