More than 21,000 villagers evacuated to shelters along the border with Cambodia last week are returning home despite the risk that violence may recur.
FRIENDS IN HARD TIMES: A boy grabs his puppy as he prepares for the trip home to Ban Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket.
The Si Sa Ket villagers, who took shelter at 55 migration centres after the most recent Thai-Cambodian fighting erupted on Feb 4, started returning home yesterday, but with mixed emotions.
Some residents will go back to homes damaged in the fighting by gun and missile fire. Many are worried that fighting will erupt again.
"I don't know whether I can sleep because I don't know whether Cambodia will open fire again," said Supin Kaewloy, 41, a resident of Ban Phum Srol in Kantharalak district, which was hit by heavy weapons fire from over the border.
Her house was damaged by a missile, while Ban Phum Srol school and the office of tambon Sao Thong Chai administration organisation were hit by artillery shells.
But despite the risk of further violence in the neighbourhood, Ms Supin said she was glad to go home.
"I don't want the fighting to recur. I did not enjoy fleeing," she said.
Si Sa Ket governor Somsak Suwansujarit and 2nd army commander Thawatchai Samutsakhon yesterday saw off half the displaced villagers from a migration camp near Kantharalak district office. Soldiers helped take villagers' belongings to waiting vehicles, as officials prepared to repair and reinforce bunkers at border villages and build between 200 and 300 new bunkers.
Ban Phum Srol residents need stronger bunkers because Cambodia was using powerful weapons, said Boonlue Swaengsai, head of a community cultural group in tambon Sao Thong Chai.
Lt Gen Somsak said soldiers would train villagers in how to look out for irregularities in their neighbourhood, because Cambodia might send people to spy on them.
Navy chief of staff Thakerngsak Wangkaew said the navy would close border passes in Chanthaburi and Trat if it needs to stop Cambodian undercover agents from infiltrating the provinces.
The navy has joined the army in reinforcing troops in border provinces. Officers under the Marine Corps have been sent to Chanthaburi and Trat.
In Surin, border trade at Chong Jom border pass in Kab Choeng district resumed yesterday after a five-day lull.
About 100 out of the 400 shops normally trading there reopened yesterday after the fifth consecutive day of ceasefire.
The border market can pull in 50 million baht on a good Saturday.
Meanwhile, Thai gamblers are still crossing the border to try their luck at Cambodian casinos, though their numbers have dropped.