Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Thousands abandon homes as they flee Thai-Cambodian fighting

via CAAI

Feb 8, 2011

Preah Vihear, Cambodia - Officials said more than 10,000 Cambodian villagers have fled their villages near the 11th-century temple of Preah Vihear after four-straight days of border clashes between the army and the Thai military.

On the other side of the border, the Thai government said at least 15,000 civilians were also living in temporary shelters after the conflict over disputed territory near the temple escalated over the weekend.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said late Monday that five people had been killed and 45 wounded since clashes broke out Friday. Thailand has reported two deaths.

Chum Puy, the governor of Kulen district, where most Cambodian refugees have headed, said 2,848 families had taken refuge in four villages. Most are women and children.

They were being put up in tents, schools and pagodas in the area, which lies 90 kilometres from the fighting.

Refugees said they were forced to flee with just the clothes on their backs, abandoning their possessions and their homes.

Hang Savy from Sa Em town, located 27 kilometres from the temple, said the fear of artillery shelling forced her and her family to flee.

Most of the town's residents have fled to Kulen district after the authorities told people to go when artillery shells fell nearby.

'Things at this new location are difficult,' she said. 'The authorities have given us some rice and money, but it is not enough.'

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Catholic charity Caritas and the Cambodian Red Cross, were due to visit Kulen Tuesday to distribute supplies to the refugees.

Hundreds of villagers have also fled other border areas, including the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng, 60 kilometres north-east of the popular tourist destination Siem Reap, as tensions rippled along the shared border.

Hang Savy said she had no idea when she would be able to return home.

'I am worried that nobody is taking care of my house,' the 57-year-old said. 'We have been forced out of our homes, and we had no choice.'

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