Tracing Truong Son base in Cambodia

A team of SGGP reporters recently made a trip to Cambodia to find traces of a Truong Son troop base in Yadao District, Ratanakiri Province.

An SGGP reporter asks Mr. Seo Go about the section of the Truong Son trail running through O Yadao.

We followed the trail ‘14C’ running along Po Ko River to Le Thanh International border gate to Cambodia. From the gate, we traveled some ten kilometers to get to Nu Village of Ia Khai Commune, Gia Lai Province.

In the village, there still exist two wharfs. During the war, a boatman named A Sanh (his real name Puih San) would use his boat to transport North Vietnamese troops across the river to Cambodia.

We went across the river and began to follow the western Truong Son trail (also known as the Ho Chi Minh trail) running along the river to head to O Yadao District.

We were walking on a section of the trail where, between 2000 and 2005, the Kon Tum and Gia Lai Provincial Army Section unearthed more than 100 remains of North Vietnamese soldiers.

On our way to the destination, wild sunflowers were blooming yellow on both the sides of the trail under the brilliant sun. We at last arrived at the place formerly used as a safe base for Truong Son troops 40 years ago. The site is just some ten kilometers from the Vietnamese border and 74 kilometers from the center of Ratanakiri.

We went to border post 721 nearby and asked Commander Phan Dinh Thanh, commanding officer, to ask if he had any idea about the accurate location of the base.

Cdr. Thanh replied, “In 1984, in a patrol, jointly organized by the soldiers of military post 721 and those of Cambodian military post 623, we found a section of the trail and a station for Truong Son troops located at the border landmark of 271 on Cambodian land (or 272 on Vietnamese land). The trail paralleled with the twin stream, which flows into Pako River.”

He added, “On the trail, we still found the chains of tanks, oil pipelines, house frames and cooking stoves. We guessed that such things had belonged to a commo-liaison of the 559 Army Corps.”

We went with first lieutenant Huynh Van Sy of border post 721, who led us to the area where the base was said to have existed. Things have changed with time. Many forests around the site have now been transformed into green paddy fields, but the old Khmer villagers who lived through the war in the region still remembered the base and the North Vietnamese soldiers.

Lt. Sy led us to a house on stilts made from precious wood standing in the center of the village to meet Seo Go, a 65- year old local man. In the 1970’s, he was head of the village.

Seo Go said, “During the war, the troops were garrisoned in the forest, a kilometer from the village to the east. They usually came to the village to give help to the people. Sometimes, they also gave us food. There was also a large hospital for Truong Son soldiers in the forest, about a two day walk from the village.”

What Seo Go said helped us locate the site of Truong Son troops’ base in O Yadao District. We said goodbye to him and followed his directions to the site.

At the site, we could not find any trace of the trail because grass, bushes and trees had grown wildly. We could do nothing, but stand silently to remember thousands of soldiers who had fallen on the western Truong Son road for the cause of independence and freedom.

We left, pondering about the changing fortunes of life. Truong Son Mountain, the roof of Indochina, still emerges from the forests, the Poko River still flows from Cambodia into Vietnam, but the many historical sites on Truong Son Trail, if not found and restored in time, will be forever taken back by the forests from which it was born.  

By staff writers – Translated by Phuong Lan

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