When the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979, they retreated to strongholds like Malai on the western fringes of Cambodia along with thousands of soldiers and supporters. While Pol Pot continued to restrict free enterprise in areas under his control, residents of Malai were allowed to conduct some trade and amass personal property starting in the 1990s.
The area broke away from the Khmer Rouge in 1996, in part to avoid Pol Pot’s attempts to recollectivize property. Today, the residents of this dusty but bustling town are almost all former Khmer Rouge soldiers or cadres and their families, but they have come to embrace capitalism with almost as much vigour as they once fought to destroy class distinctions, free trade and even money itself.
Photography: © Omar Havana for The New York Times. All Rights are Reserved
Intro by Julia Wallace for The New York Times
This story was done while on assignment for The New York Times