Thailand has reported an increase in the flow of refugees from the neigh-bouring Communist countries of Vietnam, kampuchea (Cambodia) and Laos during the past month.
Thailand has reported an increase in the flow of refugees from the neigh-bouring Communist countries of Vietnam, kampuchea (Cambodia) and Laos during the past month. Thai authorities are already struggling to cope with more than one hundred and fifty thousand Indochinese refugees in settlement camps throughout the country. Renewed fighting in neighbouring Kampuchea has resulted in increasing numbers of refugees pouring over the Thai border and seeking political asylum since the first week of May.
SYNOPSIS: Within the first three days of the exodus from kampuchea, more than ten thousand refugees fled into Trat and Aranyaprathet provinces of eastern Thailand. United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim visited the area on Sunday (13 May) during his ten-nation Asian tour. He reported that there were an estimated one hundred thousand potential refugees on either side of the Thai-Kampuchean border. The latest wave of Kampuchean refugees began in January when a Vietnamese-backed administration ousted the government of Prime Minister Pol Pot from Phnom Penh. The most recent arrivals in Thailand have been escaping from fighting in north-west Kampuchea where the forces of the new government have clashed with Khmer Rouge troops loyal to Pol Pot.
The latest influx of Kampucheans has so far been denied refugee status, but Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan has given assurances that no-one will be sent back into Kampuchea against their will. Border officials in this area have returned some refugees into Kampuchea, resettling them in areas thought to be out of Khmer Rouge control. During his visit, Dr. Waldheim reported that many of the refugees were fleeing from starvation rather than fear of political persecution.
Those refugees who have been permitted to stay in Thailand have been settled in emergency camps in Aranyaprathet. Some, including soldiers, have been injured and receive medical treatment from the Thai troops. Most of the refugees in this particular camp at Nongchan Temple are ethnic Chinese who have been living in the area of Sisophone in Kampuchea. The local Chinese community in Thailand have been supplying the camp with food.
Dr. Waldheim said he was impressed by the standard of care in the refugee camps he visited, but he stressed that international help was necessary to solve the problem. He said he hoped the Thai authorities would be able to grant the refugees temporary asylum until new permanent home could be found. Dr. Waldheim said his organisation appreciated the help other countries had given South East Asian refugees in the past but said this was not enough to help the many thousands of new refugees.
During his talks with Prime Minister Kriangsak, Dr. Waldheim suggested an officer should be appointed in Bangkok to liaise between the United Nations and the Thai government on the refugee problem. He described the food shortage in Kampuchea as tragic. Dr. Waldheim congratulated the Thai authorities on the effort they were making to feed and shelter the thousands of new arrivals, who were creating financial difficulties and tremendous security problems along the Kampuchean border.