Thai soldiers fired over the heads of more than a thousand Kampucheans to drive them back into their country after they crossed into Thailand to buy food at an illegal eastern border market, military sources have reported.
Thai soldiers fired over the heads of more than a thousand Kampucheans to drive them back into their country after they crossed into Thailand to buy food at an illegal eastern border market, military sources have reported. The incident was said to have occurred about twenty kilometres (12 miles) northeast of the frontier town of Arranyaprathet. The Red Cross says more than two million Kampucheans are facing starvation following failure of their rice crop. Many have sought to overcome their problems by purchasing much needed items in Thailand.
SYNOPSIS: Arranyaprathet is just five kilometres (3 miles) from the Kampuchean border. It used to be a sleepy town -- many shops were closed down when Vietnamese forces took to crossing the border in pursuit of troops belonging to Pol Pot's ousted regime. But recently the town has taken on a new lease of life.
Kampucheans who are facing famine and a shortage of all kinds of everyday items are crossing the border to purchase goods at illegal markets set up in border villages. So now Thai traders are flocking to Arranyaprathet to get hold of supplies to sell to the Kampucheans. The vendors fill up their sacks with sugar, milk, flour, cooking oil, batteries, soap, bicycle tyres and many other things to take to the markets.
Arranyaprathet used to have just three bicycle shops, but now following the boom in trade it has eleven. The vendors take their purchases by bus or pick-up truck to trading centres at nearby villages. Thai soldiers keep a strict watch to see if the items are suitable. The Thai Government has ordered a crackdown on the illegal markets to prevent what it calls strategic goods falling into the hands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas. But the incident in which soldiers drove back Kampucheans appears to have been an isolated incident arising from Thai fears of vast numbers of Kampucheans gathering near the border. Thai officials said more than ten thousand people had assembled.
The Kampucheans pay for the items with gold, precious stones and Thai currency. No one asks any questions and the vendors are making huge profits.