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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.

Portfolio Notes.

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 buildings.

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 thousands..

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 attacks. 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.
0483-37S 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, reporters said.
0483-9S 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 independently.

Balance the rice on your head and hold the cans in your arms. Oops, careful now...

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 spring crops.

TIME, April 18, 1983 KAMPUCHEA 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