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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Exodus of villagers ends as calm returns to border areas

Exodus of villagers ends as calm returns to border areas

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As a quiet spreads over the border between Thailand and Cambodia, villagers who fled the fighting are returning home

Preah Vihear

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

Villagers returning to their homes in Koy Muoy village after tensions at Preah Vihear eased.

HUNDREDS of people who fled their homes near the Thai border when fighting broke out between Cambodian and Thai soldiers last week have now returned to their villages.

About 90 percent of villagers in Kor Muoy, a village only about six kilometres from the temple, left following last week's fighting, leaving a ghost town behind.

Almost all the doors and windows were locked. The main street was nearly empty, and the normally bustling market was quiet.

Three days later, villagers have started to trickle back to their homes, walking the streets and shopping at the market - signs that normalcy is returning to the border.

Chan Sok, a 42-year-old woman who fled shortly after the outbreak of fighting, told the Post that her family fled to Sra Em commune some 30 kilometres away because she feared that the border skirmishes could escalate into full-blown war.

"Even if I was in the bank, I was not confident I was safe," she said.

Chan Sok had just moved her small business from the Poipet border to Kor Muoy village six months ago.

"I was very frightened, and I thought that the fighting would just get more serious," she said.

Yem Pheap, 44, stayed in Kor Muoy village because she could not afford the transportation costs out of the area.

"I was very afraid during the shooting, but I did not know where to go, and I did not have the money for transportation, so I had to risk staying here," she said.

Chea Keo, the deputy commander of Military Region 4 stationed at the temple, told the Post that the situation was now calm along the border near Preah Vihear and that villagers could safely return to their homes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, following last Friday's cabinet meeting, appealed to people  along the border to stay in their villages and to resume friendship with their Thai neighbours to ensure a good business climate.

"I would like to appeal to the people along the border to not be afraid. The situation along the border is under control," Hun Sen said. He also appealed to the villagers not to hoard goods or petrol because it was not necessary.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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