After being ousted from power in 1979, the Khmer Rouge found a natural bolthole in remote Pailin, waging a disruptive guerrilla war against the government in Phnom Penh, supporting their campaigns by tapping into the area’s rich natural resources including gemstones and untouched forests – it’s said that gem-mining alone earned them a monthly revenue of $10 million. They held out until August 1996 when, in a move that marked the beginning of the end for the Khmer Rouge, Ieng Sary, the local commander, struck a deal with the Cambodian government, gaining immunity from prosecution for himself and taking three thousand defectors over to the government side – although the Khmer Rouge managed to maintain a foothold in the remote Dangkrek Escarpment on the border with Thailand right up until the death of Pol Pot in 1998. The war was vicious and the border area is still the most heavily mined region in the country – under no circumstances wander from clearly defined tracks.

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