Monday, March 1, 2010

Monorom Hotel






This was one of the first large modern hotels built in Phnom Penh. It stands on Monivong Boulevard, not far from Central Market and the railway station. At the time it went up there was little development along what was to become one of the city’s most metropolitan and built up streets.
The photo of the “Khmer Rouge” troops passing by the hotel on April 17th 1975 poses some questions. The ”Artful Dodger” character out front is wearing some strange-looking bandoliers and has a certain jolly expression which seems very exaggerated. He certainly doesn’t have the usual stoic and mean expression that you usually see in pictures of KR soldiers, and the people in the truck look to me to be civilians. The flag flying from the truck is one which has often been identified as a Democratic Kampuchea flag, but I have rarely seen pictures of it actually being used.
The crowd to the left of the truck are mainly dressed in camouflage military fatigues, of the type worn by Lon Nol’s Republican forces. I understand that there was a certain amount of jubilance at first on the streets of Phnom Penh, but I ‘m surprised to see Republican soldiers celebrating. I thought they would have been too busy getting rid of their uniforms first, as they were the number one target for execution in days to come. .
When the capital was finally taken, it wasn’t by one unified army, but by several allied groups from almost autonomous zones of the country. Some confusion, and even a certain amount of fighting erupted between the various groups at first. In the first few hours of confusion, one particularly strange event occurred. Some people, perhaps students or military decided to join in. They dressed up as Khmer Rouge combatants, and paraded through the streets on trucks proclaiming victory. It’s not clear what their motives were, perhaps they thought they would just blend in and get on with things, but I doubt any of them got very far.
The first picture shows the Monorom in the early 1960s, the B&W is from April 17th 1975. The bottom two are more recent, as you can see it hasn't changed a lot other than the awning along the front.

2 comments:

cloche-hat said...

The 'Khmer Rouge' seen in the photo above weren't Khmer Rouge at all, but members of a small organisation called the Monatio (National Movement). Not much is known about how this group was created, but it's generally thought that it was set up by high level civil servants in the Lon Nol government, as a last-ditch attempt to present themselves as friends to the in-coming Khmer Rouge armies. Those who took to the streets were students and soldiers. Some of them dressed up in Khmer Rouge garb. They seized the city's radio station and broadcast a pre-recorded message, welcoming the peasant soldiers who were filing into the city from all directions, and proposing a talk on the conditions of surrender. Apparently, the real Khmer Rouge weren't impressed, broke them up and dispersed them along with the rest of the population, whether genuine urbanite or peasant refugee. The leaders in the higher levels of the civil service were executed.

Thanks for listing my blog by the way.

(The Eyes of the Pineapple)

phnompenhpast said...

Yeah, I saw the piece about Monatio since I put this up and was going to ask if you thought these were the same guys. Cheers