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Cambodians in Thailand: now below 20,000

Briefing notes

Cambodians in Thailand: now below 20,000

5 February 1999

The population of Cambodian refugees still in Thailand (in Surin and Trat provinces) has fallen below 20,000 for the first time since the summer of 1997. 15,000 Cambodians have repatriated voluntarily with UNHCR's help since then, and a further 11,000 have gone back spontaneously just over the past 2 weeks from Phu Noi camp. There are still around 19,500 refugees in the Huay Cherng and Chong Khao Phlu camps. The Phu Noi camp was closed on February 2, following the return to Cambodia of the remainder of its population.

Registration for return started yesterday at the Chong Khao Phlu camp in Trat province. If arrangements are in place, the first return movement of residents of this camp, going back to Samlot district in Cambodia, should take place on February 12.

We remain concerned about the risk posed by the extensive presence of land mines in return areas in Cambodia, especially in Samlot, Anlong Veng and Samrong districts. UNHCR is supporting mine awareness training for refugees in the camps in Thailand and after their arrival back in Cambodia. We are also supporting the clearance of mines from principal repatriation routes and arrival points, and emergency mine clearance and demarcation of mine fields, within returnee communities. Our partners in this effort are the Cambodia Mines Action Centre and the Halo Trust.

On the opposite border, between Thailand and Myanmar. new arrivals from Myanmar continue to enter Thailand in the areas around Mae Hong Son and Mae Sot. Around 500 people arrived in the Mae Hong Son area in the first days of this month, and over 1,300 in the Mae Sot area. These persons are apparently fleeing fighting on the Myanmar side of the border between the Myanmar army and Karen rebels. In addition, there are around 4,000 persons encamped on the river bank on the Myanmar side opposite Nong Bua. This group has not so far opted to cross to the Thai side. UNHCR is monitoring the situation closely. There are around 100,000 refugees from Myanmar encamped in numerous settlements on the Thai side of the border.