PHNOM PENH - Former foreign correspondents have built a stupa in Phnom Penh to commemorate colleagues who were lost to the Cambodian civil war.
The memorial is engraved with the names of 37 journalists who were killed or disappeared between 1970 and 1975. Among them are Americans, Australians, Cambodians, New Zealanders, Japanese and others.
Marjolaine Caron, daughter of photojournalist Gille Caron, held a vigil at the stupa on Thursday. This was the first time she has come to Cambodia since her father disappeared, on April 5, 1970.
“This is the first time that I came here and dared to confront Cambodia,” she said, after meditating before the stupa on Thursday.
“He was a brave colleague and photographer,” said James Pringle, a former bureau chief for Reuters in Phnom Penh and Saigon.
Caron disappeared while covering the conflict near Bavet, in Svay Rieng province, near the Vietnam border. Marjolaine said she had found photographs related to his disappearance and had decided to come here.
The Cambodian civil war was extremely dangerous for journalists at the time; the insurgency had no set battle lines, and safes zones shifted regularly. More journalists were killed in the brief span of the Cambodian conflict than in the war in neighboring Vietnam, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said. Many journalists were killed or disappeared in the early stages of the war, before they learned how to more safely cover a conflict that culminated in the rise of the Khmer Rouge.
In all, about 120 foreign correspondents covered the conflict. Many stayed at Le Royal, now a Raffles hotel, near Wat Phnom in the capital. They would travel out of the city to cover the conflict each day, returning in the evening.
“Every day, from the Royal Hotel, we counted the people who went out in the morning, and we counted when they came back, to make sure that everybody was there,” Pringle said. “And not every day did all of the correspondents come back. Sometimes they disappeared forever.”