Prisons have existed on this site for nearly a century. For the duration of the Second World War, conscientious objectors were detained here. In the 1950’s the site housed a prison farm which was further developed in the late 1970’s. The large size of the site – thousands of hectares of commercial and native forests, farms, wetlands and a river – meant that a perimeter fence was impractical, and the site was only ever suitable to house up to 600 inmates at a minimum to medium security level.
From 1998 the prison began to suffer repetitional damage, first involving a seizure of almost $1 million worth of cannabis plants growing on site, followed by the revelation that buckets were being used in place of toilets, two inmate drownings involving Maori cultural training, canoes and parachutes, and the conviction of a prison guard for supplying cannabis to a prisoner in return for a bribe.
The closure of this unit – one of four we visited as the autumn sun was falling fast – was announced in 2012, and the land and its buildings have now been returned to their original owners. No signs of the commencement of demolition were evident, and – gratifyingly – no signs yet of vandalism. A 360 degree panoramic mural painted around the walls of the dining hall conveys a sense of geographical placement among the majestic landscapes beyond the perimeter of confinement, tantalisingly out of reach.
“Black Palace” (Damnak Sla Khmao) was a little summer palace of King Sihanouk, abandoned sometime in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. It’s located on Bokor Hill Station in southern Cambodia. The “Palace” itself is not on a grand scale, but the overall spectacular location and many outer buildings must have been fairly impressive in its day.
The hill station was built as a resort by colonial French settlers as an escape from the heat, humidity and general insalubrity of Phnom Penh. Nine hundred lives were lost in the nine months during the construction of the resort in this remote mountain location.
The centrepiece of the resort was the grand Bokor Palace Hotel (which has never been a casino) inaugurated in 1925. See previous video- “Casino Rouge”. It was used as the location for the final showdown of the excellent Matt Dillon 2002 movie, “City Of Ghosts”.
Bokor Hill was abandoned first by the French in late 1940s, during the First Indochina War, because of local insurrections guided by the Khmer Issarak. It was only in 1962, for the reopening of the “Cité du Bokor”, that a casino was established in the new hotels near the lake, (Hotels Sangkum and Kiri). Some buildings were added at this time: an annex for the palace, the mayor’s office and a strange mushroomed concrete parasol.
The Bokor mountain was abandoned again in 1972, as Khmer Rouge took over the area. During the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, Khmer Rouge entrenched themselves and held on tightly for months. In the 1990s Bokor Hill was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.
This coastal artillery battery (one of many) was built to defend New Zealand’s capital Wellington against a Naval attack. Work began in 1908 on constructing a 2 gun battery using 6″MkVII guns. By 1912 these 6″ guns were manned by the Wellington Naval Artillery Volunteers. At its prime at the beginning of World War II, this fort had a total of no less than four different batteries of guns, and became the HQ for the heavy artillery regiment that manned the various coastal defence batteries in and around Wellington.
The Crusader fortress of Beaufort Castle- constructed in the 12th century- has been the focus for countless battles and the home of many occupiers over the centuries.
Beaufort (French for “beautiful fortress”) sits atop a 300 meter cliff which declines steeply to the Litani River. Its commanding location, with views over of much of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, is still of strategic value today.
In fact, Beaufort is one of the few cases where a medieval fortress has also proven to be of strategic military value, in the age of modern warfare.
In late 2005 the place was in ruins- but there was no mistake who held the high ground here.
Hezbollah’s AK47 emblazoned flag fluttered in the breeze- along with their allies and former rivals, AMAL.
Seven months later, the IDF once again invaded Lebanon- blitzing their way up to Beirut- laying South Lebanon to waste and cluster bombs in the July War
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) held the castle from the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in the mid 1970′s, until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) finally evicted the PLO and occupied and fortified Beaufort, controlling south Lebanon for the next two decades.
Upon their withdrawl in 2000, the IDF set explosives and destroyed most of the structure. In 2007 an Israeli film- Beaufort– was released about an IDF unit stationed at the fortress.
Vukovar, Croatia, 2002: Vukovar was utterly destroyed after a three month seige against the mostly Croat defenders by the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army (JNA) in November 1991. Some estimates are that Serb gunners fired a million shells into Vukovar destroying 15,000 buildings. It was the first European city since WWII entirely leveled to the ground. At least 3,000 people were killed and 20,000 “ethinically cleansed” The city was still a jigsaw of destruction 10 years later. Exploring was out of the question as the city was littered with landmines and unexploded ordance.