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Funds pour into Preah Vihear

Funds pour into Preah Vihear

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Charities and individual donations add up to nearly US$1 million for soldiers involved in the protracted standoff with Thai troops over disputed territory around the World Heritage Site

HENG CHIVOAN

Revellers at Phnom Penh's Olympic

Stadium celebrate UNESCO’s listing of the Preah Vihear temple.

THE patriotic fervour over the Preah Vihear temple standoff has incited an unprecedented flow of personal donations towards the national cause, a philanthropic outpouring which is both a symbolic display of solidarity and a useful supplement to shore up gaps in the country's shrunken military budget.

Through media-established funds alone, Cambodians have to date donated an estimated US$830,000 to buy food, medicine and other necessities for soldiers and villagers at Preah Vihear temple, according to figures from fund raising organisations set up after the border dispute began.

What started with contributions from local journalists deployed to Preah Vihear has erupted into a countrywide phenomenon with everyone from rural villagers to Okhnas making their mark through both modest and high-profile offerings.

"The soldiers are defending our heritage, so it is my obligation to help them," said Chan Dara, who added that he is just one of many farmers in Pailin to make a $5 donation.

Battambang resident Ung Phoeung said his cash donation both "showed love for my people" and, more practically, helped Cambodian soldiers who might "lack food and equipment".   

'A war supported by the people'

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told the Post on August 4 that while the government had earmarked adequate funding for the defence ministry at the beginning of the fiscal year, the additional donations for soldiers demonstrated that "this is a war supported by the people, and when the country has war, people have a duty to assist their nation".

CTN reporter Soy Sopheap said a fund established by a group of broadcast and print media journalists to support soldiers deployed at the temple had so far raised nearly $100,000.

Television networks have established support funds using local celebrities in day-long telethon fundraisers. CTN has collected $330,000 in donations, of which $190,000 has been committed to troops at Preah Vihear and Anlong Veng in the form of supplies, said its director Tok Kimsay.

"The response from the people has been very strong. Even beggars have come to CTN to make contributions," he said. 

Donations gathered by Bayon TV have reached $400,000, of which $30,000 has been already committed, according to Huot Kheang Veng, assistant to the network's director. The network is deliberating on the use of the remaining funds.

"The military has their own budget and they have enough, but this is a sign of people's hearts," Huot Kheang Veng said.

Anlong Veng is teeming with troops from both sides but, without an iconic prize like Preah Vihear temple hanging in the balance, the district has remained out of the media spotlight.

"I see most donations go to Preah Vihear temple only. We are confronting Thai soldiers also, but without the same support," said Nuon Nov, deputy commander of Military Region 4, which includes Anlong Veng.

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