Cambodia’s History, Viewed Through Sihanoukville

Youk Chhang recalls visits to the seaside town during several key points in Cambodia’s history.

One of the most beautiful memories I have of Cambodia when I returned to the country in 1992 to work for UNTAC was seeing the ocean and the endless sandy beach of Sihanoukville.

This was my first trip to that town on the Gulf of Thailand, renamed after King Norodom Sihanouk in 1958. Between the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, I had never had a chance to go there.

As a child growing up in Phnom Penh in the 1960s, the only long trip I had made was going to visit one of my grandmothers who lived in Battambang City. We had gone by train to meet this very modern grandmother, who wore makeup and served us coconut dessert made blue and pink with food coloring.

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