Tension has been mounting along the border between Thailand and Cambodia following a number of raids on villages by Khmer Rouge soldiers.
Tension has been mounting along the border between Thailand and Cambodia following a number of raids on villages by Khmer Rouge soldiers. In recent weeks at least 15 villagers have died in attacks across the border from Cambodia. Uncertainty in Thailand has been heightened by reports of an attempted coup which was foiled by Cambodia's leaders.
SYNOPSIS: Most of the trouble has occurred around the border town of Arranyaphrathet 90 miles (140 km) east of the capital of Bangkok. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1975 after the Communists took over in Cambodia and set up border liaison offices here. They're now deserted except for troopers from the Border Patrol Police.
The Thais say there were contacts in the early stages but gradually the Cambodians became less co-operative -- and now they don't even answer the telephone. Early this year the Thai authorities were completely taken by surprise when Khmer troops began a series of raids across the border.
Since the attacks the once-prosperous town of Arranyaphrathet has become deserted. Shops near the border have closed and many villagers have been evacuated.
Cambodia has virtually cut itself off from the outside world since the Communist take-over and it has given no reason for the attacks. But much of the 360-mile (600km) border is ill-defined and Thailand suspects the Cambodians are trying to seize disputed areas. Certainly the Thais were shocked by the savagery of the attacks in January when several hundred Khmer troops massacred 29 men, women and children in three border hamlets near Arranyaphrathet.
Now the villagers in the area spend their nights in bunkers built to protect them from the sporadic mortar shelling from the Khmer side of the border. Those who've stayed behind face other hazards like booby traps and landmines which the Cambodian troops have left behind after crossing the border.
Other Villagers have been subjected to apparently senseless attacks by the Communist soldiers. Early in August 150 Cambodians crept into the hamlet of Ban Sa-Ngae and killed 14 villagers and a Border Patrol trooper. The Thais said half the dead were children, including a little boy who was thrown up in the air and bayonetted.
The villagers find it hard to continue their normal existence under such constant threats.
They've been angered by the killings and the disruption of their lives, especially by the fact that so many of them have been forced to leave their homes for the relative security of the refugee camps.
On at least one occasion villagers have taken bloody revenge on the Cambodians. A week ago (15th August) nine Cambodian soldiers were caught and beaten to death by villagers after they'd crossed the border into Thailand. The killings have also reduced to a trickle the number of Cambodian civilians fleeing across the border from the Communist regime, because the Thais now regard every Cambodian crossing the border as a potential spy.
Recently Thai forces captured Cambodians suspected of being enemy agents sent to spy on Thai defensive positions.