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Innocent victims of someone else's war

Innocent victims of someone else's war

M y children are beautiful. My children are beautiful. Now they are dead." Davy

bursts into tears. She is 40 years old and her family has been devastated by the

fighting during the weekend. She is the only person in her family of seven who is

unhurt so she has to rush from one bed to another to look after her relatives gathered

in Calmette hospital.

Unluckily, her house is located in Pochentong market next to a Funcinpec one star

general: he was a target of the shelling launched by CPP forces on Saturday afternoon.

Over two days, Davy had to come twice to the hospital. On Saturday, she came to visit

her daughter who was injured in the head. "I could not bring her by myself.

The neighbors brought her in the hospital. So I came later to see her," she

says.

"I thought she had been killed by the shell, but I saw her raising her hand

and I went to pick her up," Davy says.

On Sunday, she came back to bring two other kids hit in the arms by shrapnel and

her husband, wounded in the feet.

In the courtyard of her house, two dead bodies remained during the fighting. Her

9-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were killed by the shell that hit all the

family at once. "The roads were blocked and nobody could come to take them out,"

says the mother, in tears.

"They are fighting each other. Why do they destroy the relationships between

the mothers and their children?"

And she cries.

Davy has no idea why the shelling started exactly, but for protection they went downstairs

and gathered in one room.

"We were gathered in the ground floor of the house and we were all in the same

group. The shell came through the wall and dropped near us. I am the only one not

hit," she says.

She is staying in room 4. On a bed in the room, Sokunteath is complaining. She has

her head covered with cotton netting to protect her dressing. The 15-year-old girl

received a shrapnel wound. Her arms and legs are tied to the bed. Her eyes are blurred

and she reacts slowly when people talk. She takes a long time before recognizing

anyone.

"I am very worried. She had convulsions for three days and could not eat,"

says the mother as she peels an orange for her daughter.

The mother is angry at the soldiers who destroyed her family and her belongings.

In 1970, she had lost her first husband during the bombings. Now her second husband

is wounded.

She is looking after her family and says she has to rebuild her life.

"I just want to rebuild a small house. I will rebuild a smaller one and the

most important thing is for my daughter to recover from her injuries. That is my

aim," she says.

"She will not be able to have a correct brain, but I want to get her moved,"

she says, giving the fruit to her child.

On the bed next to Sokun-teath's, a man is recovering from the injury to his right

leg. He was in the middle of the fighting in Tang Krasang pagoda.

"Six people were killed by only one shell. I am the only one to survive,"

says Chhanta.

He went that morning to the pagoda to get some holy water for a ceremony and then

was blocked by the fighting and had no choice except to stay.

"The shelling was coming from everywhere and they were targeting the pagoda

instead of the camp," he said.

In the corridor, a man could not stop crying. He is a Phnom Penh port employee and

his wife has been wounded, his son as well, and his niece is dead.

"I left my house in Bang Sralang on Saturday before the fighting started and

when I got back it was terrible," he says.

His wife and his son were injured as they packed the family's few belongings. When

he returned home, he found everyone in pain. He rushed to the hospital.

"During the war in Phnom Penh, we never lived in such bad conditions. My son

is now always thinking of the grenade. He cannot sleep," he says.

His wife's bed is surrounded with relatives and friends. Everyone has red eyes and

their faces are angry and anxious.

"When I came to see my wife in the hospital, I saw a woman who had her two legs

amputated. I cried a lot, I thought it was my wife. But then I recognized my wife

and she was fine, so I felt like I had won the lottery," he says.

He tells of how his son nearly died.

"They should stop fighting. Otherwise all people will die. I understand that

they are fighting for power, not for the people. If they loved the people they would

not fight," he says.

"When I feel better I will write a book about my family's suffering."

He pulls from his pocket a wad of 500 riel notes. "I have nothing left except

that. Hopefully, I have my neighbors and my relatives to come and help me."

Further down the corridor, Cambodian Red Cross members, accompanied by doctor in

chief Heng Thai Kry distribute kramas and sarongs to the victims.

Kry says there were no problems for Funcinpec victims at the hosptial.

"We respect the Geneva charter and we provide aid to everyone despite their

political belief," he says, telling of a Funcinpec colonel who was injured during

the headquarters fighting.

But according to hospital sources, some soldiers tried to hide their loyalties. They

arrived naked and dropped their weapons outside.

The doctor in chief says, passing from one victim's bed to another, that now he can

be elected director of the hospital.

"Funcinpec was blocking the issue of my appointment at the council of administration.

Now it should be OK," he says.

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