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Battambang

Battambang (pronounced: /bɐtdəmbɒ:ŋ/) (the Siamese name was Phratabong) founded during the height of the Khmer empire in the 11th century (long before the Thai were a political power), is Cambodia's second-largest city and the capital of Battambang Province. It is the urbanized part of the Battambang District. After the invasion of Thai forces, it was the main commercial hub of Siam's Eastern Provinces, though it was always populated by ethnic Cambodians. The Thai finally returned the provinces in 1909 because of pressure from the French, who administered Cambodia as a 'Protectorate', though the Thai attempted to regain the territory as part of a deal they made with the Japanese during World War II. After the defeat of their Japanese ally, Thailand returned the area to the French, from whom it was formally given to Cambodia in 1953. It is the former capital of Monton Kmer.The city lies in the heart of the Northwest and until the war years was the leading rice-producing province of the country.

Battambang is the main hub of the Northwest connecting the entire region with Phnom Penh and Thailand, and as such it’s a vital link for Cambodia. The main parts of the city are situated closed to the Sangker River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province. It is a nice, picturesque setting. As with much of Cambodia, the French architecture is an attractive bonus of the city. The French has left most of its influence on the Cambodian land.

Introduction

The name Battambang or Batdambang, literally means "loss of stick" referring to a legend of Preah Bat Dambang Kranhoung (Kranhoung Stick King). The urban area population is nearly 1 million. It is a city that modern similar Phnom Penh. It is a riverside town, home to some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in the country. Until recently Battambang was off the map for road travellers, but facilities have recently been improved and it makes a great base for visiting the nearby temples such as Phnom Banon and Wat Ek Phnom as well as villages. It's a secondary hub on the overland route between Thailand and Vietnam, and if the National Highway 6 from Poipet to Siam Reap is ever upgraded it'll become an even smaller hub. The network of charming old French shop houses clustered along the riverbank is the real highlight here, and there are a number of wats scattered around the town. The small museum has a collection of Angkorian-era artifacts, and beyond the town there's a number of hilltop temples, yet more wats and a large lake. One of the more famous hills is Phnom Sampeau (Ship Hill) with the notorious killing caves Battambang now has made many editions including more restaurants and hotels. Maybe 2 or 3 years in the future, Battambang will have 3 supermarket in there. But now they are under construction. Now Battambang can serve all you want. Battambang is now a smooth and is the beautiful city different few last year, sealed 293 km (181mi) bus or share-taxi ride from the capital. A railway also connects Battambang to Phnom Penh, but passenger service is only once a week. (See Transport in Cambodia)

History

Legend has it that the name 'Battambang' received its name referring to an episode in Khmer history when the King Kranhoung (Kron Nhong) threw his wooden staff from Angkor and it landed in present day Battambang, a fact commemorated by the huge golden statue in honour of the staff-throwing king, erected in the town. The stone inscriptions discovered from the pre-Angkor and Angkor eras have as yet mentioned no villages or districts at that time that were called ‘Battambang’. But it is not certain if the name was in use a lot of info including much evidence. However, the only evidence is a legendary story ‘Ta Dombang Kranhuong’ Grandfather Kranhuong Stick, which, according to most Cambodians, dates back to the Angkor days. The story explains why the name ‘Battambang’ or ‘O Dambang’ was used. There is another name: ‘Preas Dambang’ (Phratabong in Thai) that was given by the King Rama I of Thailand to a village, which goes by the name ‘Sangke’.

During the pre-Angkor and Angkor eras, the areas to the north and to the north west of the Tonle Sap Lake were known as the territories of Amogha Boreak and Bhima Boreak. During the Angkor period, the territory of Amogha Boreak was significantly prosperous because the land was so fertile that rice crops, fruit and vegetables grew well and yielded satisfactorily. Many Khmer people settled there as indicated by the existence of so many ancient temples in the area. With the exception of the temples of Banan, Ek Phnom, Ba Seth, Stung, Banteay Tey, Banteay Chmar, etc,other monuments, which were built by dignitaries and subjects at the time as places of worship to God and other deities of Buddhism and Hinduism, almost completely disappeared.

The following centuries, from the 15th to the 18th, saw the Battambang being invaded by the Siamese army, causing people to be forced into a miserable life, to experience painful family separation, and to lose their properties.

From late in the 18th century until early in the 20th century, the Siamese overran Battambang and placed it under the rule of the Lord Chaofa Ben family, which was later known as the Akpheyavong Family, for 6 generations ending in 1907.

The ‘Lord Governor’ who built the Governor’s Residence in a Southern European style was not a French colonial administrator but Apheuyvong Chhum, the last Thai governor of Battambang who in the early 1900’s imported a team of Italian architects and designers to erect a new residence on the banks of the Sangker and close to the fort. Thailand had previously in 1893 agreed to maintain no armed forces in Battambang other than police and this treaty was then ratified in 1904 when the Thais agreed in principal to the province moving into the French sphere of influence. Finally, in March 1907, Battambang was ceded to the French and Apheuyvong Chhum was forced to leave town without having lived in the palatial splendour he had envisioned for himself.

Battambang returned to the French in 1907 was not the compact and well designed city of today but rather, in the words of the architect Helen Grant Ross, an agglomeration "stretching along the Sangker River, from the area that now is Battambang to the Tonle Sap, with a population of about 100,000 people."

To commemorate Battambang’s return to Cambodia as ruled by the French a monument was built depicting a French soldier on one side, and three goddesses, representing the three returned provinces on the other. The monument can be seen today near the base of Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh, near the present floral clock.

Turning their attention to the town’s architecture, the French administration dismantled the wooden houses then and now typical of Khmer dwellings near to water and instead designed and built a solid and well defined town centre complete with road and rail links to Phnom Penh.

As in other French run towns and cities in Indo-China, a merchant class of ethnic Chinese descent was encouraged to put life into the commercial centre of the town by running shops and small businesses. Psah Nat, the city’s bright yellow main market with its symmetrical lines, was added in 1936. Further French development was put on hold by the Second World War when Japan seized most of Cambodia and in 1941 by the treaty of Tokyo when the Vichy French, at the behest of their Japanese allies, willingly gave to Thailand large areas of Siem Reap and Battambang Provinces including Battambang itself and a large strip of land stretching all the way up the Mekong.

During this time around 1000 Allied POWs of mixed nationalities were moved to Battambang and used (together with many local people) as forced labour on the reconstruction of Highway 5 – the main Phnom Penh to Battambang road – after which they were put onto barges and taken to Saigon.

The Thais quickly launched an aggressive policy of Thaisation, which included forcing ethnic Khmer residents of Battambang to to dress in Thai clothing, and forbidding signs to be posted in the Khmer language. They forbade the speaking of Khmer in pagodas, but the monks resisted, and thereby prevented the success of the Thaisation program. The period from 1941 to 1946 was a harsh one for Battambang residents. Economic and agricultural production – even the rice harvest – fell to almost zero. Beatings, torture and rape were common. A concentration camp was set up at Boueng Chhouk Market, near the present day taxi stand to Sisophan. 3,000 people were interned there, and the women and girls were systematically raped by their captors.

At the end of the Second World War, the new French government pressed the Thais to return the occupied territory from Thailand to what remained of Cambodia. Initially, the Thais were reluctant and the American government considered US strategic interests would be best served by Thailand stretching all the way down to the Mekong, but France threatened to veto Thailand’s entry into the United Nations until the land was returned. The Thais eventually agreed to leave but not before looting everything of value from Battmbang; therefore, in 1946, Battambang was returned to Cambodia and the country’s newly restored French colonial administrators as an economic basket case.

By the mid 1950’s a wind of change was sweeping across the colonies of Europe’s imperial powers: the French finally left for good and Prince Sihanouk’s government turned its attention towards Battambang. There was a will to develop the city not only as the commercial and industrial hub for the region but also as a link between Thailand and Phnom Penh. During this period, the city’s infrastructure was further developed: canals were filled in, schools and universities were built, the railroad was extended to Pailin and the city got its very own airport.

By 1975 however, Sihanouk was gone from power and Lon Nol - Battambang’s provincial governor in the immediate post war period - was now a heading a corrupt and venal government on the brink of collapse and defeat to the Khmer Rouge. It wasn’t until April 19th 1975, two days after the fall of Phnom Penh, that the city’s defenders agreed to surrender. Having been promised that they were being sent away for ‘retraining’, many Lon Nol soldiers were put into trucks, taken a few kilometres out on Highway 5 towards Phnom Penh, unloaded from the trucks and then gunned down by waiting KR soldiers.

It has been said that that the Battambang Khmer Rouge governor did not want pagodas destroyed. This may well be true because the city’s pagodas certainly fared better than those in Phnom Penh where many were destroyed or badly damaged during the KR years.

Following, the defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 Battambang began, once again, and slowly at first, reverting to its role as a regional commercial centre. The Vietnamese sponsored regime of 1980’s Cambodia began to tolerate a certain amount of trade with Thailand and a great deal of illicit cross border smuggling also went on. However, as late as 1986 the town was briefly occupied by Pol Pot forces when as many as 1000 KR soldiers participated in a raid that forced the Vietnamese army to pull a regiment back from the Thai border. KR radio later put out an announcement stating that the raiding party had destroyed five Vietnamese typewriters.

The Khmer Rouge rebels continued fighting and plundering in the province after the civil war in the seventies and eighties until the end of 1998.

Attractions

Barseat Temple

was built during the reign of King, Soriyak Varman I (1002-1050) and located on a hill at Ba Set village, Ta Pun commune in distance from the provincial town. Ba Set temple adapts the architecture of 11th century and built in 1036 and 1042. Next to the temple, there is a pond having length width and depth. The pond is never dried, though in the dry season. In rainy season, the water level is higher than usual.

Wat Ek Temple

adapts the architecture of 11th century and built in 1027 during the reign of King, Sorayak Varman I (1002-1050). It is located at Piem Ek commune in from the provincial town.

Ba Nan Temple

adapts the architecture of mid 11th century and the end of 12th century the temple was first built by King, Ut Tak Yea Tit Tya Varman II (1050-1066) and was built finally built by the king, Jayavarman VII (1181-1220). The temple is located on the top of approximate heighten mountain at Koh Tey 2 commune, Ba Nan District in distance from the provincial town by the provincial Road No 155 parallel to Sang Ke River. At the mountain’s valley, there are Ku Teuk and two main natural well, namely: Bit Meas and Chhung or Chhung Achey.

Prasat Snung

characterizes as three separated stupas made of brick, located on a hill having length and width, in Snung pagoda’s area, Snung commune, Ba Nan District in distance from the provincial town. According to the style at the gate, the temple is similar to other temples in 12th century. Behind the temple, there is another new constructing temple.

Phnom Sam Pov Resort

is the natural resort located along the National Road No 57 (the former National Road No10) at Sam Puoy commune (the high land having more than height) in distance from the provincial town of Battambang. On the top of Sam Puoy mountain, there are temple and three natural wells, namely Pkar Slar, Lo Khuon and Ak So Pheak. Next to Sam Puoy mountain, there are some main mountains, the natural site like Phnom Trung Moan, Phnom Trung Tea and Phnom Neang Rum Say Sork. These mountains related to the Cambodia folk legend of Reach Kol Neang Rum Say Sork.

Boeng Kam Pinh Puoy Resort

locates between two mountains, named Phnom Kul or Phnom Ta Nget and Phnom Kam Pinh Puoy, at Ta Nget village, Ta Kriem Commune in distance from the provincial town. Boeng kam Pinh Puoy has width, length and can load .

Sek Sak Resort

is the natural resort, which has been popular since before the civil war time. Sek Sak stretches along the river bank full of plant, trees and bamboo-green nature in length. As long as visiting Sek Sak, tourists can also visit other attractive sites like Po Pus Pich Chen Da Dong Tong and Sa Ang speak, the pre-history site in five kilometer (3.1 mi) to six kilometer (3.75 mi) distance from each other. Sek Sak located Treng commune, Rotanak Mondul District in distance from the provincial town of Battambang along the National Road No 57, the former National Road No 10.

Sister cities

References

Further reading

  • Analyzing Development Issues Trainees, ADI Team, and Cooperation Committee for Cambodia. Labour Migration to Thailand and the Thai-Cambodian Border Recent Trends in Four Villages of Battambang Province. Small-scale research report. [Phnom Penh?]: Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, 2003.
  • Catalla, Rebecca F. Crossing Borders, Crossing Norms Vulnerability and Coping in Battambang Province. SCVCS report, #5. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: UNICEF/AFSC, 2000. ISBN 0910082413
  • Kassie, Alebachew, and Nguon Sokunthea. Credit and Landlessness Impact of Credit Access on Landlessness in Cheung Prey and Battambang Districts. Phnom Penh: Oxfam GB Cambodia Land Study Project, 2000.
  • Mourer, Cécile, and Roland Mourer. The Prehistoric Industry of Laang Spean, Province of Battambang, Cambodia. Sydney: Australasian Medical Pub, 1970.
  • Robinson, Court, Suphāng Čhanthawānit, and Lekha Nou. Rupture and Return Repatriation, Displacement, and Reintegration in Battambang Province, Cambodia. Bangkok: The Center, 1994. ISBN 9746311301
  • Ross, Helen. Battambang = Pâtṭaṃpaṅ = Bad Dambaung = Le bâton perdu : histoire d'une ville. Phnom Penh, Cambodge: 3DGraphics Pub, 2003. ISBN 9799697441
  • Tūc, Jhuaṅ. Battambang During the Time of the Lord Governor. Phnom Penh: Cedoreck, 1994.
  • Vinary, Vonn. "All Our Livelihoods Are Dead" Landlessness and Aquatic Resources in Battambang Province. [Phnom Penh]: Oxfam GB Cambodia Land Study Project, 2000.
  • Wallgren, Pia, and Ray Sano. Report on the Reconciliation Areas Based on in-Depth Interviews Conducted in Six Villages in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap Provinces. Phnom Penh: UNDP/CARERE, 2000.

External links

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