I’ve recently been visited by a couple of old and familiar ghosts which have wafted over here from Southeast Asia. I thought that these spirits from the past were buried in the place where I left them, a place where I served in the US Army as a young enlisted man, and ten years later as a humanitarian aid worker. But it seems that I must once again call up memories of that particular patch of God’s green earth, a 30-kilometer swath of jungle scratched out along the Thai-Cambodian border, just north of the town of Aranyaprathet in eastern Thailand. I may otherwise get no peace.
Ten years later, I showed up for the second time in that very same patch of jungle and red laterite roads where I spent time with the US Army. But this time, things were different. I brought a new me, with me. In fact, I had no idea that I’d somehow be back ten years later, although I had that country and its sad story stuck in the corner of my mind for the decade I was away. I had watched as the shitstorm unfurled in Cambodia when Phnom Penh fell and the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975. I knew well the places that were bearing the brunt of Pol Pot’s terrorist campaigns.