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A Message from Phum Srol Village

March 11, 2011

An ancient temple called Preah Vihear, lies on the border between Thailand and Cambodia.   UNESCO recently concluded that the temple is on the Cambodian side of the border, basing their decision on various old maps.  This has created tension between the two countries which erupts into open fighting from time to time.  Recent clashes have had a devastating effect on villagers living near the temple on both sides of the border.  The following short article is written by a young Thai woman who, together with some Cambodian and Thai friends, visited the area and provided some assistance to those villagers most negatively affected.  They listened to the stories of the villagers and now share this reflection with you.

Translated by ATCHARA SIMLEE

During the month of February over the weekend, Thai and Cambodian friends, including myself, were able to share and donate to the displaced and troubled villagers of the Thailand-Cambodia temple dispute. The areas we were able to visit and assist included Phum Srol village, Kantharalak District and Sae Prai village, Phu Sing District in Si Sa Ket province of Thailand. We encountered demolished village buildings which included homes, shops and other facilities that were all targeted during the fighting earlier this month.

My personal reflection of the visit was how I endeavored to be an amenable visitor who could bring about a little bit of hope to hearten in the face of adversity during this unpredictable as well as difficult cross-border feud.

I spoke with a female Phum Srol villager whose house was completely destroyed in the troop clashes that had erupted at Puh Makuea Mountain nearby the Thailand – Cambodia border. She narrated her story even as tears streamed down her cheeks barely able to control her emotions. She was able to relay the true feelings of the villagers which blanked the mood of our visit when she uttered these words “Reparations for our buildings have been totally paid already, but my completely ruined heart is irredeemable”. My heart suddenly went out to her because what she said perfectly reflected how the fighting caused pain and suffering for her. Solely endowing a new house and plenty more facilities can not heal her severely destroyed heart.

Nothing else would help cure the damaged hearts of these men, woman and children living in the disputed areas except talks between Thailand and Cambodian governments to reach a ceasefire agreement.  Leaders of the two countries should take common interest into consideration because all people living in the disputed areas want NO WAR. However, the two governments unbelievably disregarded what their people call for.

Nevertheless, a very heartfelt account arose out of the midst of the depressed atmosphere. During our limited time there, a Cambodian girl in our team was looking for her compatriot who had settled in Phum Srol. All throughout the village as we traveled she was able to engage villagers and ask them of her friend’s whereabouts. However, good fortune was on her side as a Thai soldier who took care of us throughout our visit made every effort to help her. She was reunited with her friend before our departure.

To witness my Cambodian companion’s extremely ecstatic embrace upon seeing her friend again, together with the Thai soldier’s act of generosity brought a great sense of shared humanity between Cambodian and the Thailand soldiers, even though they have different nationalities and are hedged in by a national boundary.

Notes:1. Phum Srol is a Khmer word (Phum = a village and Srol = a pine forest)

2. Sae Prai is a Khmer word (Sae = a rice paddy and Prai = a forest)

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