Some of the most savage fighting in the Khmer Republic has been taking place just ten miles south of the capital, Phnom Penh, on the Bassac River front.
GV PAN DOWN FROM Fisherman on Bassac River TO people living on river bank
SCU Unexploded shell at water's edge
TV & CU Fishermen with their catch (2 shots)
SV Boys gut fish with ruins of village in background
GV Ruins with crops growing in foreground
SV Men load lettuce onto truck
SV PAN Bicycle cart takes troops and their families towards the front
SV Woman and child carry basket
SV PAN Motorcycle cart brings timber from front
LV & CU Children chant in classroom (2 shots)
CU Teacher at blackboard
CU Child writing on slate
Initials BB/1751 JW/MR/BB/1800
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Some of the most savage fighting in the Khmer Republic has been taking place just ten miles south of the capital, Phnom Penh, on the Bassac River front.
This area is important for the insurgents -- for it is from there that they launch most of their rocket attacks on the capital itself.
The fertile soil along the Bassac River used to support a dense population. But now everything has been destroyed there. But life goes on in this beleaguered area. Farmers -- whose land has been made uncultivable by the ravages of war -- have turned their hand to fishing; others grow vegetables for the city markets. They also collect firewood -- a valuable commodity at the moment. At night they return to a secure area.
The children attend school in makeshift classes. With the city and suburban areas crowded with refugees there is a great shortage of teachers and class-rooms. But the teachers who have romained are dedicated, and they bring an air of normality to the children. They have also been outspoken critics of the Government, pressing for social reforms. And they speak for the poorer people -- such as the parents of the children they teach.
SYNOPSIS: The fishermen working on the Bassac River - just ten miles south of the Khmer Republic's capital, Phnom Penh -- used to be farmers. But this area has been ravaged by recent fighting ... the insurgents use it as a base for attacks on the capital. Their fields have been ruined, so they've turned to fishing for their livelihood.
This fertile area once supported a dense population. Now the biggest battles of the current dry season -- which started in November -- have been fought here. And the fields have been reduced to a few vegetable patches among the ruins.
Makeshift transport takes troops and their families to the front line just over a mile sway ... ...And the cycle carts bring back firewood -- a vital commodity in the area.
But for the children of the region, an air of normality as classes continue in makeshift school-rooms. With the city and suburbs crowded with refugees there is a great shortage of classrooms and teachers.
Education has been seriously disrupted right across the country since the war started nearly five years ago. The country will need a foundation of basic learning on which to build when peace comes -- which just now seems as far away as ever.