Thailand now has an estimated one hundred and fifty thousand Indochinese refugees living within its borders.
Thailand now has an estimated one hundred and fifty thousand Indochinese refugees living within its borders. Many of them are Kampucheans (Cambodians) who supported the pro-Chinese government of Pol Pot. They fled to Thailand when Vietnamese-led forces took over power in Phnom Penh last January. All of them are now in emergency camps near the border and the Thai authorities have refused entry to the thousands of others who daily try to leave Kampuchea. Thailand says it cannot cope with the massive influx.
SYNOPSIS: Now the Government is facing a new problem -- what to do with the thousands of Thai citizens who have fled from war-torn border areas within the country. Many of these people were caught in the cross fire of skirmishes that take place near the Kampuchean border.
The villagers were evacuated from their homes, and taken to refugee camps such as this one, at Ban Mong village near Arranyaprathet. There are now several thousand of these evacuees, who are all being cared for by the Thai Government.
The influx of refugees across the Thai border has led to severe food shortages. Prices of food and medicines have risen to artificially high levels. Recently police have reported a sudden increase in smuggling with civilians selling contraband items to refugees.
Thailand's policy is that -- after receiving emergency attention -- Indochinese refugees will in all probability be sent back to their country of origin. Western observers believe that unless the Thai authorities relent and allow medical aid from outside sources, diseases could reach epidemic proportions. Already there are reports of bubonic plague among refugees from Kampuchea.
But, for many of the Kampuchean refugees, almost anything appears welcome after escaping from the horrors of the Kampuchean war. And the refugee problem grows daily, as more and more people emerge from the jungle. All of them have abandoned their homes and have thrown themselves at the mercy of the authorities. No crops are growing in Kampuchea and to the refugees, Thailand seems, by comparison, the land of plenty.