Dark Tourism – Kampong Chhnang Airport

Unbeknown to many there are actually Khmer Rouge and Killing Field sites located throughout Cambodia. Most of them are unknown though to all but relatives, and thankfully the Cambodian Documentation Centre. One of the most important of these is Kampong Chhnang Airport.

Said airport was initially build in the early stages of Khmer Rouge rule and well into the reign of Democratic Kampuchea. After this it was abandoned, with many believing it was in part due to its macabre past.

Finding the Kampong Chhnang Airport

KhmerRouge.com initially found the site of the airport from CAM-DC, the main NGO in charge of not only documenting the sites of the Khmer Rouge, but also ensuring their crimes are not forgotten.

It is located deep into Kampong Chhnang and is roughly 3 hours from Battambang and 2-3 hours to Phnom Penh depending on traffic. There is quite literally no tourist infrastructure here, with even the capital “city” of the province being one of the most desolate and underdeveloped in Cambodia.

History of Kampong Chhnang Airport

The initial building of the airport came at the end of 1975 when officially at least the country was under the stewardship of the “Royal Government” of King Sihanouk. This continued through the formation of Democratic Kampuchea until its overthrow in 1979.

It was build with the help of Chinese advisors, with China at the time not only being one of the few nations to hold diplomatic relations with Democratic Kampuchea, but also being the chief financial backer of a state that claimed to be fully independent and non-aligned.

There has been much revisionism with regards to Chinese involvement with the Khmer Rouge, but there is not only documented evidence about their role in building the Kamping Chhnang Airport, but also statements from locals still living in the area.

Whether this was related to the Sino-Soviet split, ideology, or pure geopolitics is rather unimportant.

The Killing Fields and Kampong Chhnang Airport

It is estimated that up to 10,000 forced labourer’s, under the indirect control of the Chinese communists took part in its building with thousands upon thousands dying through heat, starvation, or simply being executed.

Many of them were thrown into the surrounding fields, with cows and farmers still unearthing bones of the victims of the Khmer Rouge.

It is not known exactly how many died, only that the stench of dead bodies was so bad that locals were still complaining years afterwards. And it is perhaps for this reason that the airport has been left to waste away.

What will you see at Kmapong Chhnang Airport?

Located at a frill high elevation and with almost 8,000 feet of runway the airport is still in quite good shape considering it has been abandoned for almost 50 years.

Its survival os likely due to a number of reasons. Firstly the runway is in such great condition that it needs to either be guarded and maintained to a level, or destroyed. Various governments have obviously opted for the former, perhaps so they can use it in the future, while guarding what would be a perfect place for an airborne invasion. Although with that being said just how much the one soldier with his rusting AK-47 could do to defend it is up for debate.

Other than the runway there is also empty fuel containers, a control tower now being used as a barracks, as well as many other things that not only make it perfect for dark tourism, but also Urbex.

The Kampong Chhnang Prison Caves

Located not far from the airport are the Kampong Chhnang is another eerie site, namely the Prison Caves. These were allegedly build by having forced labour remove the rocks – again under Chinese supervision to be used in the airport.

Said forced labour then build three prison cells within the caves. Alas we could not go all the way inside due to the flooding. This was though perhaps a blessing in disguise as even the incense that had been burned there recently by relatives still could not remove the smell of death that wafted out of the entrance to the caves of death.