By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH - Cambodian residents have been monitoring with concern the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that erupted recently with deadly consequences.
As tensions have sparked, with Cambodia asking for United Nations intervention and Thailand pressing for purely bilateral negotiations, a group of Cambodians in Long Beach has felt the need to lend a hand to displaced refugees and suffering soldiers on the front lines.
Recently, troops from the two countries exchanged gun and artillery fire killing eight and damaging a temple site that is at the center of the conflict.
In the wake of the most recent imbroglio, which has been punctuated with occasional gunfire and violence since 2008, a Long Beach-based group called Khmer Support Khmer is undertaking a humanitarian mission to the border area and seeking help and donations.
The group plans to bring food and medical supplies to the thousands of refugees in the border area, as well as troops who are woefully underfunded by the government and often lack basic necessities.
The group is holding a fundraising dinner Saturday at the Grand Paradise Restaurant, 1350 Anaheim St., beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person and $300 for a table.
Charles Song, the chairperson for the event, says it is different from other fundraisers in that all the proceeds will go to the aid. The restaurant is donating the meals and will also underwrite transportation in Cambodia, according to Song.
Members of the Khmer Support Khmer group will hand deliver the supplies and invite any people interested in volunteering to travel with them.
Song said with many fundraisers, after money is spent to pay for the food and other costs, there is little left over for the actual cause.
"I wasn't willing to do that," Song said. "One hundred percent on the donations will go directly to the people in the region."
A long-time land dispute between Thailand and Cambodia sparked in 2008 when World Heritage Site status was given to a 900-year-old Hindu Khmer temple known as Preah Vihear in Cambodia and Phra Viharn in Thailand.
For decades Cambodia and Thailand have disputed which country has proper claim to the temple and surrounding land. The International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled the temple is in Cambodia, but a main entrance is on the Thai side and both countries dispute areas around the temple.
Both sides have reinforced troops along the border, who occasionally exchanged gunfire.
In the latest incident, Cambodia says the temple sustained damage from Thai shelling.
A U.N. team wants to visit the temple to assess the damage but Thailand has objected and is lobbying to have the World Heritage status removed for the temple.
While protracted negotiations and diplomacy continue, Song and his compatriots realize that suffering goes on daily in the area.
"We want to let people on the front lines know (they) are not forgotten," Song said.
People interested in purchasing tickets or donating to the cause can call Charles Song at 562-450-6989.
firstname.lastname@example.org , 562-499-1291