Friday, 25 February 2011

Cambodian evacuees return home ahead of observers' arrival

via CAAI

February 25, 2011

Ninety percent of the 2,686 remaining families evacuated from the deadly clashes on Feb. 4-7 between Cambodian and Thai troops over the border disputed areas near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple have returned home on Friday morning amid fears of further clashes ahead of the arrival of Indonesian observers.

"Ninety percent of the 2,686 remaining evacuated families left the camp for their houses on Friday morning and the rest would be returned this afternoon or tomorrow," Nhim Vanda, the first vice- president of the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management, who visited the camp on Friday, told Xinhua by telephone.

"There will be no more clashes as both sides have reached a ceasefire and Indonesian observers will come soon," he said.

However, some returnees said Friday that they still fears ahead of the arrival of the observers.

"My family returned home this Friday morning," said Huot Kimheng, 53, the father of 5, living in Preah Vihear Thor village, some 18 kilometers from Preah Vihear temple.

"We are still deeply concern over our safety when we arrived home because some soldiers told me that Thai army has still added troops to their border side near the disputed area," he said. "We' re worried that clashes can burst out any time before the arrival of Indonesian observers."

He said that soldiers told him that the observers will probably be sent to the area on Mar. 4, and some said on March 12.

Kim Var, 31, the father of a two-year-old daughter, whose family returned home on Friday morning, said that Cambodian officials has informed all evacuees to return home from Friday as they said that the situation was better and the observers would be come soon.

"We're still scare, but have no choice, it's our home," he said.

Thirty Indonesian observers will be dispatched to the border disputed area near Preah Vihear temple to monitor the ceasefire.

The dispatch of observers was made following the invitations of Cambodia and Thailand in the informal foreign ministers' meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Feb. 22.

Koy Kuong, the spokesman for Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on Friday could not confirm when the observers will be dispatched to the disputed area. "It was still unknown when they will arrive," he said.

Contacting on Friday morning, a brigadier general Thul Sovan, deputy commander of Cambodian Military Division 3, stationed at the frontline near Preah Vihear temple, said the situation was calm: "not tense, but not eased."

"It's still fragile as the military confrontation still continues, we observed that since last night, Thai army has trucked more ammunition to their border side near the disputed areas," he said by telephone.

The border between Thailand and Cambodia has never been completely demarcated.

Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the Temple of Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia, the row over the 4.6-square-km territory around the temple has never been resolved.

The conflict has occurred just a week after Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as World Heritage Site on July 7, 2008, since then both sides have built up military forces along the border, and periodic clashes happened, resulted in the deaths of troops on both sides.

The latest clashes on Feb. 4-7, unleashed a barrage of artillery shells on both sides of the border, had killed and wounded many soldiers and citizens of both sides, and caused tens of thousands of the two countries' villagers nearby the disputed areas fleeing for safe shelters.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: Xinhua

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