THAILAND: AID WORKERS STRUGGLE TO COPE WITH CAMBODIAN REFUGEES



English/Nat

Aid workers at the remote Thai-Cambodian border were struggling on Monday to cope with the growing number of refugees fleeing fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian government.

More than 10-thousand refugees streamed into Thailand over the weekend.

The Cambodian government claims its troops have already seized the last enclave of the Khmer Rouge in northern Cambodia, all but wiping out the revolutionary movement that brought three decades of terror.

The flight across the jungle border continues to take its toll on the Cambodian refugees.
This woman and her infant child were found on the road near the camp, too exhausted to walk any further.

Many of the refugees formerly lived in Khmer Rouge-held villages.

They fled when government troops stormed into the area last week.

Many have lived a virtually isolated existence in the jungles.

Medical aid workers at this makeshift camp run by U-N High Commission for Refugees say their general state of health is very poor.

None have ever been vaccinated and the greatest concern now is an outbreak of contagious diseases.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
”Due to the move and instability, the people are affected by respiratory infections. They are exhausted and suffering from gastro-enteritis, diarrhoea and in this hot climate very fast they develop dehydration.”
SUPER CAPTION: Dr. Ulrich Roethig, Regional Coordinator for MHD Relief Agency

Located a mere five kilometres (3 miles) from the war-torn border, the camp is now home to around eight thousand people.

Thousands more are scattered through the nearby forest as government forces continue their drive to exterminate the Khmer Rouge.

Officials in Phnom Penh said on Sunday that they had conquered the last Khmer Rouge strongholds.

But Thai military sources said it appeared some rebel forces had simply melted back into the jungle.

Aid officials have been closely monitoring the fighting.

They say they are prepared for the refugee influx.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
“No, in the sense that we did have some warning, along as say a month ago. So that preparations had been made at that time for a site roughly in this area to my left over here. And the provincial officials and district officials in this area were ready for something.”
SUPER CAPTION: Robert Burrows, United Nations Border Relief Operation

Even so not everything is running smoothly, some of the refugees are on the move again to a second site three kilometres (2 miles) further inside Thailand.

Thai government fears over public health and expenses are keeping their future uncertain.

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