Monday, 14 February 2011

Feature: Thai border villagers back home after clashes

via CAAI

February 14, 2011

When Wirot Sambookoraw, a villager in Thai-Cambodian border area, arrived home from the temporary shelter on Saturday, he knew he had to deal with the fact that he would have no home at all for the next month.

In the border village of Jinglor, Kantaralak district, Wirot, 44, tried to find something intact in the debris of his bungalow. Finally, he found a bedroom door still useful.

"The provincial government promised us that the damaged bungalows would be rebuilt within a month and the Army agreed to help. I feel much better now," said Wirot.

"At the first sight of my home after the bombing, I was so mad that I hoped our army could take revenge for my loss. But now, on a second thought, I hope it can stop here and there is no more fighting."

The clashes between Thailand and Cambodia started on Feb. 4 and ended on Feb. 7, leaving at least three people dead and dozens of others injured in the Thai side, and thousands of border villagers temporarily homeless.

Jinglor village, only 11 km away from the border, suffered an artillery attack in the first day of the latest round of clashes between the two countries in their chronic territorial dispute over a 4.6-sq-km land near Preah Vihear temple.

The temple, itself a sensitive issue frequently raised by nationalists of both countries, had been ruled by the international court in Hague in 1962 to belong to Cambodia. UNESCO 's enlisting it in the World Culture Heritage list in 2008 accelerated the tension on this issue between Thailand and Cambodia.

A strip of 4.6-sq-km land around the 11th-century temple was claimed by both countries, which led to skirmishes between the two armies during the past years.

This is the first time, however, that this village has been damaged by this kind of clashes, said Wirot.

A villager was killed by the rocket when he was working in the field. "This time the clashes are the biggest," he added. besides, seven huts were destroyed in the village.

An anonymous Thai ranger, who took part in the clashes, echoed Wirot by saying that this was the fiercest crossfire he had ever seen since he was stationed here five years ago.

"Before both sides only used guns, this time we saw rockets and cannons," he said.

Wirot also mentioned that an artillery shell even hit the roof of the school building and exploded at the back yard. That was lucky, he said, "because at the moment the kids were holding sports event right at the front yard. Think about what might have happened..."

When both Thailand and Cambodia are blaming each other for triggering the fresh clashes, the villagers hesitate to make judgment. He said that before the firing some Cambodian soldiers who had wives in this village made phonecalls to their wives, warning them against danger.

"You see, we don't hate each other. Our girls even married their guys," Wirot said.

There were about 1,800 households in the three villages here, including Jinglor, said Wirot, and most of them have been back home Saturday as soon as the Si Sa Ket provincial government announced the situation was stable and the border villagers could go back.

Thousands of the local residents had taken shelters from the possible shellfire since the clashes broke out, and their daily trade with Cambodians had to halt, too.

"We (the Thai and Cambodian border villagers) are in good relations, we never hate each other, even now," said Wirot. "They come to us to buy rice, fruits, cloths, and others, while we go over there for fish and some wood and animals. There is only a narrow river between us. We can come and go freely. But since the clashes we can't do it any more."

In the capital of Bangkok, which is about 700 km away from the border area, thousands of supporters of "yellow-shirts" group were protesting against the government, blaming it for lacking toughness over Preah Vihear issue.

For Wirot, however, "talk for peace" seems always the best way. "If 'red-shirts' want wars, let them come and live here. Then they will know how a war will be like. They will know the consequences, " he said, pointing at his shattered bungalow.

The UN Security Council will hold a closed meeting Monday on the clashes between Thailand and Cambodia in an effort to negotiate a peace deal. The foreign ministers from the two nations, and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa are expected to participate in and speak to the council.

Maybe this meeting can lend some hope to Wirot, who, worried about his small bungalow, is not aware of the news at all.

Source: Xinhua

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