Cambodia, rehabilitation of railway network. Dec 2011.
Cambodia is the only interruption of an hypothetical transnational railway system linking Europe with Singapore.
What used to be busy railway stations are nowadays decontextualized buildings, sometimes even with no access and no railway, inhabited by guardians who wait for the harvest season to go back to the rice fields.
Structures that stand out, solitarily, in endless countrysides, or that pop out of the shacks that were built along the railroad during these years of abandonment.
The desolate ticket offices impose a reflection on the coming and going of the past and the void of the present.
The railway network was built during the colonial period and was abandoned during the Khmer Rouge Regime (1975-79), also damaged by the US bombs dropped in Cambodia during the Vietnam’s war.
Five metres right and five metres left of the railway were cleared of land-mines and UXO to allow the renovation works, beyond that line the local farmers carry on with their life.
In 2009, the rehabilitation begun (Tso, France + Toll, Australia).
The “Rail dogs”, young men from the cambodian countryside, move the railways by hand, in groups of twenty. At night time, most of them, camp with hammocks on the side of the railway.
Peasants improvise bridges, made with hay-rocks-wood, that allow their bicycles and motorbikes to cross this new, cumbersome presence.
It’s still possible to see the “Bamboo Train” (now also a popular turist attraction, $ 5 for 1 hour), today with diesel engine.
After the 1975-79 madness, as a matter of fact, poverty was such in the countryside that the only way to move around and transport goods to the city was a wooden cart laying on railways, and pushed with a long bamboo cane.
See the full long-term project about Cambodia development here: PORTRAIT OF A LIMBO
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