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Meagre food stocks held as "last resort"

Meagre food stocks held as "last resort"

ABOUT 60,000 people forced out of their homes by war could face starvation in

Siem Reap in the near future as their food threatens to run out, according to

the human rights group LICADHO.

The people had receive little help since

November except the World Food Program's donation of 300 tons of rice, said

LICADHO volunteer consultant Ghislain de Mareuil, who visited Siem Reap refugee

camps in late December.

Two hundred tons of that had been distributed and

the remainder being kept till it was absolutely necessary to use it.

Some

refugees had also received rice from local villagers in return for helping them

to harvest their crops.

Most NGOs and United Nations agencies, meanwhile,

had reduced their assistance for the refugees because of a lack of cooperation

from provincial authorities.

All the provincial officials had provided to

the homeless people was plastic covers for them to erect makeshift tents with,

he said.

The government had meanwhile established an Internally Displaced

People (IDP) Committee, but so far it had done little to offer any

help.

The villagers had fled their villages, many of them around Angkor

Chum, Varin, Angkor Thom and Pourk, because of Khmer Rouge shelling and bombing

since November.

Most had had only one day to prepare to leave, taking

only a few possessions and not having time to harvest their rice

crops.

They were also suffering from a lack of education and health

services.

World Food Program official Martin Fisher said 15 kg of rice

had been given to each refugee to last them 40 days.

A Cambodian Red

Cross official in Siem Reap said that many of the refugees were now collected in

two camps in Chambak Hea and Pourk districts, about 14km northwest of Siem Reap

town.

The Australian government, meanwhile, had committed another 10,000

tones of rice to the World Food program for 1995. The Aust$5.4 million purchase

will be delivered early this year and used both for rehabilitation programs and

emergency relief.

WFP director Kenro Oshidari said the Australian

donation was in immediate response the Cambodian government's global appeal for

help following the widespread failure of this year's rice crop.

The

Australian donation will be administered through the WFP's Food for World

program. Villagers will rebuild and renovate flood-damaged dikes, canals roads

and ponds and build rice banks, Oshidari said.

International experts

concur with the government's estimate of 350,000 tones of rice lost in this

year's harvest to flood and drought.

The pain has been exacerbated by the

huge numbers of IDPs fleeing fighting - especially in the Siem Reap area - and

the thousands of Khmer Rouge defectors and family who are coming down from the

north with nothing, needing food themselves.

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