The pro-Vietnamese government in Kampuchea, led by Heng Samrin, has given permission for two relief organisations to open an office in Phnom Penh in order to help fight food shortages throughout the country.
The pro-Vietnamese government in Kampuchea, led by Heng Samrin, has given permission for two relief organisations to open an office in Phnom Penh in order to help fight food shortages throughout the country. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) face a massive task. Among the people facing starvation are the refugees of the Khmer Nationalist Movement in Western Kampuchea, who claim allegiance neither to the present government nor the previous Pol Pot regime.
SYNOPSIS: The Khmer Nationalist say they are on neither side in the Pol Pot-Heng Samrin war. Their leader is Prince Nordom Soriavong, seen here inspecting his paratroops at one of their camps in Western Kampuchea.
Prince Soriavong -- who is related to former Cambodian ruler Prince Sihanouk -- claims his forces fought the Pol Pot troops when they took over, and are now fighting Heng Samrin's troops as well.
Their main base is here, near the border with Thailand, where troops and refugees live together in this emergency camp. Conditions are bad. Monsoon rains have turned the ground to mud, and the refugees' only shelter is beneath grass huts, Food, too, is scarce. A recent World Food Council report estimated that Kampuchea needs at least seven hundred tonnes of food a day in order to check food shortage. Already, many people have died from starvation and malnutrition, while others have been too undernourished to fight disease.
This woman told newsmen that her two-year-old child had not eaten for five days, because there had just not been food available.
Others told of similar desperate searches for food, and of friends and relatives who had died. The new Heng Samrin regime claims food is short because its Pol Pot predecessors effectively destroyed the country's agricultural system.
Meanwhile, the Khmer Nationalist troops, who call themselves the "Free Khmer", have vowed to fight on. Prince Soriavong says they could take Phnom Penh in two months given adequate aid. But the camp's resources are limited, and every day up to twenty new families arrive.
Many are very weak. This woman fainted while washing and had to be carried to safety. Hope for the refugees has grown with the announcement that the Phnom Penh administration has allowed relief agencies into the country. Until that relief arrives, though, all these people can do it wait.