Kampong Chhnang Airport in Rolea Baear, Cambodia

By | Posted:

The control tower with the runway in the foreground.

Though abandoned, the exacting standards to which this airport’s runways and concrete roadways must have been held to are evidenced by the uncracked, weedless surfaces, even all these years later. The strangely intact airport exists as a somber reminder of the atrocities committed under Pol Pot’s rule.

The military airport was the product of forced labor under the horrific governance of the Khmer Rouge, followers of the communist regime that ruled Cambodia during the second half of the 20th century. Construction on this military airbase began in 1977, but it was never completed—the project was abandoned in 1979 when Vietnamese forces captured Phnom Penh.

Though never used for any actual aviation, the land holds several abandoned roadways leading to shells of old buildings, water tanks, and the vast airstrips themselves. Adjacent to the runway is a small control tower-type building. The site is an impressive one, but it remains a sobering example of the atrocities committed here.

Thousands of workers died while building the airport. They were forced to work in inhumane conditions under the reign of the radical regime. Many of the laborers were members of the military who had been sent to work at the site as a punishment. Their work was overseen by engineers from China, as the Chinese government had a keen interest in helping build the airport.