Dozens more families living along the border in Oddar Meanchey province fled their homes yesterday as reports of frontline military reinforcements raised the spectre of a repeat of April’s deadly clashes near Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, local and military officials said.
Uon Ri, chief of Thmar Daun commune, located in Banteay Ampil district, said yesterday that 55 families had now left their homes to seek shelter at the Wat Ku pagoda, about 15 kilometres from the border, as well as the Boeung Trakoun border gate.
“We have not been ordered from the top to leave home. They themselves are in fear because they live near the frontline,” he said.
Phar Ny, a 31-year-old resident of Thmar Daun village, said yesterday that she feared for the safety of her three children and was gathering her clothes and belongings in preparation for the walk away from the border.
“I have to run to find a safe place before the shooting erupts because I have small children,” she said, adding that she was afraid that reported reinforcements of Thai troops signalled preparation for an attack.
Phar Ny said other villagers who had not yet decided to flee were remaining at home, keeping away from rice fields and plantations and staying on alert.
Pich Sinath, Thamar Daun village chief, said Cambodians were panicking because they believed that an attack by Thailand was imminent. Just 20 out of 76 families in the village remained in their homes, he said.
Tens of thousands fled homes on both sides of the border near Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples during heavy fighting in April and May that left at least 18 dead.
Tensions have risen in recent days after Thailand withdrew from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee during a meeting in Paris after it was unable to derail Cambodia’s proposed management plan for the Preah Vihear temple, a longtime source of conflict between the neighbouring kingdoms.
Military officials said the border situation remained steady.
Mai Mao, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces division 41, which is stationed at Ta Moan temple, said yesterday that the situation at the frontline was “normal”. “We are prepared to protect territorial integrity, but today the people are in turmoil and ran down from the mountain,” he said. “They panicked and ran in and out. It is their right to find safe shelter.”
Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the border conflict would not derail national elections scheduled for July 3, while Thai military officials said there was “no plan” to attack Cambodia, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.