Some of the estimated fifty to eighty thousand Kampucheans who recently fled their land to neighbouring Thailand have returned to Kampuchea, reportedly to counter-attack the occupying Vietnamese forces.
Some of the estimated fifty to eighty thousand Kampucheans who recently fled their land to neighbouring Thailand have returned to Kampuchea, reportedly to counter-attack the occupying Vietnamese forces. Reuters news agency says two groups, each containing some two thousand Khmer Rouge guerrillas, have moved back into Kampuchea at either end of a region in which twenty thousand Khmer Rouge soldiers and civilians were trapped by Vietnamese forces. The Vietnamese were expected to move at any time against the trapped people.
SYNOPSIS: The main refugee column is accompanied by several thousand Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Together they are moving into mountains straddling the Thai/Kampuchea border.
Mothers carrying babies in their arms walk alongside youths carrying automatic weapons, their possessions loaded onto bullock-carts and bicycles or carried across their shoulders. The Khmer Rouge have told Thai officials they plan to camp in the hills and re-organise to continue their fight against the Vietnamese-backed government in Kampuchea.
They claim the Vietnamese fired about sixty mortar rounds at the column on Tuesday night (24 April), killing an estimated ten people.
The Thais say the refugees have no chance of making a long march south to mountains where ousted Prime Minister Pol Pot is believed to be leading another Khmer Rouge force, because Vietnamese-led forces occupy the lowlands between the two mountain ranges. Thai army officers have also said they have orders not to allow any of the refugees to remain in Thailand, and other officials say the Kampucheans would be ordered to returns home from the mountain region.
Thai soldiers, patrolling along the column, warned reporters not to speak with the refugees for fear of upsetting the Khmer Rouge soldiers.
Two sick people were taken to hospital, but one emaciated child about three years old died in his mother's arms as reporters watched. The only time the refugees smiled was when Thai villagers brought them food and, occasionally, ice cream. One young refugee called out that they were constantly hungry.