Sunday, 20 February 2011

Which one is Thai, Which one is Cambodian?

via CAAI

Villagers on both sides are suffering _ and if claims that cluster bombs were deployed prove true, then the pain could be felt for years to come

Published: 20/02/2011

Two weeks after the shelling began, life has yet to return to normal in Svay Chrum village, four kilometres south of the frontline on the Cambodian side of the border dispute.

FELLOW SUFFERERS: Rany and her child, left; and a Thai woman in Si Sa Ket province

Dwellings sit empty, leaving evidence of a quick departure along with clothes hanging on fences and abandoned bicycles.

There were 250 families in this area; now there are five, said shopkeeper Rany who came back two days after her home was nearly hit by conventional artillery on Feb 7.

''We are the risk-takers, the people who have property to protect. I hear from the camps that everyone wants to come back, but they are still afraid of the situation here,'' she said.

There are still people in Svay Chrum, in Chuam Khsan district of Preah Vihear province, but most of them are in uniform.

Soldiers either walk or catch a ride down the mountain to buy supplies and maybe get a drink at one of the two places that serve them.

Some of the Cambodian troops live only 50m from the Thai troops, and relish the opportunity to take a break.

For women like Rany, her concerns are more mundane than those of the politicians and generals in Phnom Penh and Bangkok.

''It was announced on Feb 3 that we must register our property. Then the war started the next day. I had to come back because I was afraid somebody would take my inventory and my house. At least if I stay here nobody will take it apart,'' she said.

On the Thai side of the border, the uncertainty for villagers is just as real.

Si Sa Ket Governor Somsak Suwansujarit has announced construction will start tomorrow of 450 bunkers in Kantharalak district and repairs of 300 others damaged during four days of fighting which started on Feb 4.

Tens of thousands of Thai villagers fled their homes during the height of fighting as Cambodian troops fired artillery into the area.

Rachanee Phongsin, a Kantharalak villager, said she still hears the sound of firing from time to time and fears the artillery and mortar shells could strike her village again.

Samroeng Charoenchan, from Phum Srol village, said he was happy when authorities allowed villagers to return home a week after being evacuated.

However, villagers were still worried about attacks after several homes were damaged and one person killed.

''The sound of bombs at night flying over my head scared me very much, I can still remember it,'' said Tat Kanchanachart, from Ban Somboon in Kantharalak district.

Aside from anxiety about returning to a potential war-zone, displaced people now face a new fear.

Cambodia has accused Thailand of firing an unknown number of shells carrying cluster munitions into Cambodia. Thailand strongly rejects the claim. Neither country has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

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