Cambodia Portfolio - 1983
In 1983 Asha's sister, Roopa, and their family were living in
Aranyaprathet, Thailand. Roopa's husband, Dr. Bernard Gauzere, was
working for the United Nations Border Relief agency providing medical
assistance to refugees on the Cambodian-Thailand border.
For more information on recent Cambodian history, see
Cambodia. Beauty and Darkness - The
Odyssey of the Khmer People.
In May of that year we spent a few days with them and visited one of
the camps on the border. We had to get a pass from the local Thai
military commander which was no problem while we were with Bernard in
his blue U.N. vehicle.
The camps were a near war zone with harassment of the refugees by the
Vietnamese Communists. A couple of days before our arrival a mortar
round landed near one of the hospital tents.
In the news clippings below, 'Vietnamese' refers to the Vietnamese
Communist regime that was fighting to capture and secure Cambodia and
Laos after the American withdrawal from South Vietnam in 1975.
We were lucky enough to visit on a day that the U.N. was distributing
food to the camp.
Vietnamese strike at Thai-Cambodia border
The Washington Post
BANKOK, Thailand - Vietnamese forces backed by tanks and artillery
Thursday launched a major attack against Cambodian settlements
controlled by communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas along the
Thai-Cambodian border, overrunning a key base and causing as many as
25,000 refugees to flee into Thailand, according to Thai military and
Western relief officials.
When a village began to get too organized and settled, it was not
uncommon for a tank to roll through the area and knock down the
Instructions were given to the people waiting to get food from a tower
with loudspeaker. Bags of rice and canned fish were provided. Only
women were allowed to carry the food from the distribution area.
While waiting for the food to be distributed, life continues.
Several of the pictures were taken from the tower where we could pick
out interesting individuals and small groups out of a crowd of
From the April 2, 1983 San Jose Mercury News:
Vietnamese invasion repulsed, Thais say
BANKOK, Thailand (AP) - The Foreign Ministry said about 500 Vietnamese
troops trust across the Cambodian border into Thailand twice Friday
but were driven back by Thai Troops.
The report could not be independently confirmed because reporters
were barred from the battle zone, and observers were skeptical an
invasion had taken place.
Vietnamese charged in bloody attacks on civilians
The New York Times
KAP CHOEUN, Thailand -- Vietnamese soldiers herded Cambodian civilians
into bunkers last week and threw hand grenades at them, according to
Cambodians who said that had been victims or witnesses of such
Their charges, made in interviews Sunday at a Red Cross hospital near
Kap Choeun, a town on the Thai side of the border with Cambodia, were
the first accounts supporting recent allegations by a Cambodian
insurgent leader that Vietnamese troops deliberately had attacked
civilians in their drive against rebel forces in Cambodia.
The rice arrives in trucks already divided into sacks.
We were told that complete families are rare - at least one member
did not make it to the camp. Either separated or killed.
U.S. issues grant for victims of Thai fighting
ARANYAPRATHET, Thailand (AP) -- A U.S. official gave blood Wednesday
and the American Embassy announced a $1.5 million grant to help the
International Red Cross care for victims of Vietnam's latest offensive
along the Thai border.
Vietnam, meanwhile, demanded that Thailand cease all intervention in
Cambodia, and Vietnamese gunner fired five shells into Thai territory
south of Aranyprathet, wounding a woman and damaging a house,
One technique is to put the cans in the sack with the rice.
Saturday, April 9, 1983. San Jose Mercury News:
Insurgents claim Viet Massacre of Cambodians
KHAO-I-DANG CAMP, Thailand -- The leader of the main non-communist
guerrilla group resisting the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia on
Friday accused Vietnamese troops of slaughtering hundreds of Cambodian
civilians at a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border.
Son Sann, the head of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front,
charged in a speech at this refugee holding center that Vietnamese
troops herded Cambodian civilians into trenches and bunkers at the O
Smach settlement on Cambodia's border with Thailand on Monday and
killed them with hand grenades and bayonets.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the claim officially or
Balance the rice on your head and hold the cans in your arms. Oops,
Sunday, April 10, 1983. San Jose Mercury News:
Thailand braces for refugee flood fleeing Vietnamese army
ARANYAPRATHET, Thailand -- On the dusty road near and across the
border, the movements were abnormally swift for a hot afternoon.
Families loaded ox cars with children and rice. Soldiers and
militiamen crowded trucks that scurried down to jungle camps
surrounded by barbed wire.
Bulldozers cleared patches of jungle while workmen installed metal
vats to hold water in anticipation of the arrival of thirsty
refugees. Mechanical ditch diggers gashed trenches across dirt roads
to cut off tanks.
Now everything is under control. The amount of food provided is
proportional to the number of people that the girl represents.
Sunday, April 17, 1983. San Jose Mercury News
PEKING(AP) -- China said its gunners shelled Vietnam's northern border
barricades in retaliation for what it called Vietnamese bombardment
that killed or wounded at least 15 soldiers and peasants planing
TIME, April 18, 1983
The Deadly Rite of Spring
Vietnam attacks rebels, bombs civilians and goads Thailand
Each year, when monsoon rains sweep in from the Indian Ocean, three
separate guerrilla armies emerge from the sanctuaries to challenge the
180,000 Vietnamese troops that have been occupying Kampuchea since
1979. And each year when the parched rice paddies sprout nothing but
stubble, the Vietnamese seek revenge, rolling out their tanks in an
effort to eliminate the 45,000 armed "nationalists" opposed to the
Vietnamese government of President Heng Samrin. But this year the
Vietnamese have instigated something more than the usual rite of
spring. In their most deadly and deliberate offensive yet, they have
been training their guns not only on the insurgents but on unarmed
civilians and even on neighboring Thailand.
Back to the village. We visited a couple of villages, one was pretty
well established and another brand new. There was a lot of work in the
latter setting up sanitation and water supplies and providing
rudimentary shelter with bright blue tarps that would start as small
tents then migrate to roofing material as walls began to form.
A small market with chickens, eggs and vegetables.
The bicycle repair shop seemed to be a center of activity.
Last modified: Sat, 25-Aug-01 05:54:35 PDT