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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Cambodia and Thailand


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Cambodia and Thailand

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Provide relief assistance and protection to Cambodian refugees in camps in Thailand; facilitate their safe and voluntary repatriation to their preferred destinations in Cambodia; monitor returnees; and provide community-based reintegration assistance to promote the long-term self-reliance of returnees and their host communities.

Who we help

Some 40,000 Cambodian refugees in three camps along the Thai-Cambodia border, 8,456 persons who have returned to Cambodia as of the end of September 1998, and up to 40,000 persons expected to return in 1999.

Our requirements

US$ 7,404,343

Our offices

Cambodia: Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sisophon, Siem Reap.

Thailand: Bangkok, Surin, Trat.

Our partners

Cambodia: Provincial Department for Public Works & Transportation, Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), Cambodia Family Development Services (CFDS), Consortium USA, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Thailand: American Refugee Committee (ARC), International Rescue Committee (IRC).


Political violence in Phnom Penh in early July 1997 led to military conflict between rival political forces in west and north-west Cambodia. Heavy fighting in the areas of Samrong and O'Smach in Siem Reap Province and in the Samlot District of Battambang Province resulted in an outflow of some 60,000 individuals into the neighbouring Provinces of Surin and Trat in Thailand. In May 1998, following the occupation of the resistance base of Anlong Veng in Siem Reap Province, 16,000 more Cambodians crossed into Sisaket Province of Thailand.

The Royal Thai Government extended effective asylum to the refugees through the establishment of camps at Huay Cherng in Surin Province, Ban Mamuang, Ban Muen Dan and Chong Khao Phlu in Trat Province, and Phu Noi in Sisaket Province. Ban Mamuang and Ban Muen Dan camps were subsequently closed in 1998 because of security concerns. An appeal for US$5.9 million was issued in October 1997. Under that appeal (which was subsequently fully funded), UNHCR, in collaboration with competent government institutions, the Thai Red Cross, the United Nations Border Relief Organization (UNBRO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and international and local NGOs, supported emergency relief assistance for camp populations, and voluntary repatriation and reintegration assistance for those individuals who wished to return to Cambodia.

As of the end of September 1998, the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Programme, fully supported by both the Governments of Thailand and Cambodia, had assisted in the safe and voluntary repatriation of 8,456 individuals overland (8,177) and by air (279) to their preferred destinations in Cambodia. Some 37,549 Cambodian refugees remained in Chong Khao Phlu camp in Trat Province (14,806), Huay Cherng camp in Surin Province (7526) and Phu Noi camp in Sisaket Province (15,217).


UNHCR will continue providing relief assistance and temporary protection until the end of June 1999 for up to 40,000 Cambodian refugees in camps in Thailand. The agency will also assist in the safe and voluntary repatriation of refugees to their country of origin, and support returnee monitoring and reintegration assistance in Cambodia throughout 1999. Given the uncertainties of the political situation in Cambodia, contingency measures have been drawn up to cover the possibility of a further influx of 10,000 refugees into Thailand, and their subsequent voluntary repatriation and reintegration.


Safety in Camps

In Thailand, UNHCR Field Offices in Trat and Surin closely monitor the civilian character of the refugee camps. UNHCR is particularly concerned about the safety of the Trat camp populations following several incidents of shelling, an armed incursion in 1998, and the presence of unexploded ordnance near the camp. UNHCR supports mine demarcation and mine-awareness activities. As a result of these activities, the incidence of mine injuries decreased substantially in 1998. UNHCR has intensified its collaboration with the Thai military and marine authorities to apply measures aimed at reinforcing the civilian character of the camps and to ensure regular, systematic, and verifiable registration of beneficiaries. These measures also help prevent the use of intimidation and misinformation by political groups in the camps to discourage or obstruct the voluntary repatriation of refugees who have expressed the wish to return to their country of origin. Given these protection concerns, UNHCR advocates the re-location of the Trat camps further inland from the
Cambodian border.

Monitoring Safe Return

In collaboration with the Thai and Cambodian authorities, UNHCR assists voluntary repatriation to areas in Cambodia which have been verified by UNHCR staff as safe for return and fully accessible for returnee monitoring. UNHCR staff accompany returnees to their drop-off points, where they are received by the local authorities, and monitors them in their villages of origin or preferred destinations. As of 30 June 1998, 34 per cent of the returnees in the four provinces of highest returnee concentration (Battambang, Pursat, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey) had been visited by UNHCR field staff.


Basic Food

In Thailand, the World Food Programme (WFP) provides basic food, including rice, cooking oil, dried or canned fish, beans and salt to some 37,549 Cambodian refugees accommodated in Chong Khao Phlu camp in Trat Province (14,806), Huay Cherng camp in Surin Province (7,526) and Phu Noi camp in Sisaket Province (15,217). Refugees in all camps are systematically registered, in collaboration with the Thai authorities, to facilitate the issuance of family ration cards and help maintain an accurate computerized database of camp population records. A small group of Cambodian exiles and asylum-seekers and their families, registered in urban centres, receive legal advice and assistance on an individual basis. UNHCR oversees the distribution of food supplies to camp section leaders and undertakes random checks among the refugee population to ensure refugees receive their food ration entitlements. Fresh vegetables have been added to the WFP basic ration in cases where refugees lack available space in camp to grow their own produce.

Household Items

UNHCR provides refugees with essential household items, such as jerry cans, cooking utensils, mosquito nets, blankets and soap, on an individual basis. Alternative cooking fuel, in the form of compressed sawdust, is distributed regularly to minimize deforestation within and beyond the camp perimeters.

Water and Sanitation

In collaboration with provincial health authorities, the American Refugee Committee (ARC) provides potable water in all camps. While comprehensive water systems have been established in Trat and Surin camps, commercial trucks have been hired to bring water into Phu Noi until alternative cost-effective water systems can be identified. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is responsible for sanitation work and public health education in the Huay Cherng and Phu Noi camps. This includes the installation and maintenance of latrines and drainage systems as well as refuse disposal and vector control. ARC provides similar services in the Trat camp. The refugee community plays an active role in essential camp maintenance and community-service activities.


In the Trat camp, ARC, together with provincial health authorities, provides health care. Out-patient and in-patient departments have been established, as have mother-and-child, ante- and post-natal care, and supplementary feeding programmes, along with an Expanded Programme for Immunization services. In the Surin and Sisaket camps, under the umbrella of the Thai Red Cross, Malteser-Hilfsdienst Auslandsdienst Germany (MHD) provides health services similar to those in Trat through their own funding arrangements. Hospital referral costs for complicated medical cases are borne by UNHCR either under the ARC implementing arrangement (in Trat) or by direct UNHCR contributions to the local hospitals in Surin and Sisaket Provinces. The Provincial Health Department provides malaria control services in Surin and Sisaket with UNHCR support.


Plastic sheeting and thatch are provided for shelter in addition to eucalyptus and bamboo poles. Access and perimeter roads in and around the camps are maintained to ensure the reliable delivery of relief supplies and safe repatriation movements from camps. Restoration and reinforcement work is undertaken seasonally in all camps to strengthen community and flood-abatement infrastructure.

Women and children

Women represent 51 per cent of the camp populations in Chong Khao Phlu and Phu Noi camps and 47 per cent in Huay Cherng camp. Children and adolescents below 15 years of age constitute more than half of all camp populations. The special needs and concerns of women, adolescents and children, including unaccompanied minors, are addressed through community services and appropriate technical programme expertise involving NGO community health workers and Khmer women's associations. In all camps, Khmer medical staff, community health workers and traditional birth attendants are being trained and work alongside experienced Thai and international health staff.

UNHCR supports school infrastructure, primary-level teaching programmes and adult literacy classes established by refugee teachers, and provides, in collaboration with UNICEF, student supplies and texts, and education materials from the national curriculum in Cambodia. Sports equipment, such as footballs, volley balls and badminton sets, are also provided to school children.

Vulnerable groups

The needs of vulnerable individuals and disadvantaged groups including female-headed households and the unaccompanied elderly, who may not benefit from traditional community-support networks, are identified and addressed. Education and vocational skills-training programmes have been established for vulnerable individuals. The disabled receive training on the production of prostheses through prosthetics workshops in the camps.

Strengthening NGOs

UNHCR contributes to the administrative costs of governmental and NGO implementing partners who require an operational presence in the camps or who, in the case of NGOs, have been required to establish offices in Surin and Trat to support the programme. UNHCR plans to conduct orientation and training sessions with refugees, government officials, and NGOs, on the respective rights and obligations of refugees and host Governments in relation to the principles of asylum, refugee protection, and voluntary repatriation.

UNHCR Field Offices have been established in Surin and Trat to strengthen UNHCR's field-based monitoring capacity, and the Regional Office structure has been reinforced in both protection and programme operations management.

Returning to Cambodia

UNHCR-UNBRO staff process applications for voluntary repatriation. UNHCR hires passenger buses and commercial trucks to transport returning refugees and their household belongings from the camps to border crossing points. All voluntary repatriation convoys are escorted by UNHCR-UNBRO and Thai government staff. In Cambodia, UNHCR provides transportation through the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) for the movement of returnees and their household belongings from the border transfer point to the UNHCR Transit Centre in Sisophon and onwards from there, as close as possible to their final destinations. Forty trucks have been deployed for this purpose from the former UNHCR fleet now administered by WFP. A transportation allowance is given to returnees to support their own arrangements from drop-off points to their final destinations.

A second Transit Centre will be constructed, possibly in Battambang Province, in the event that additional border crossing points are opened to facilitate larger-scale returns. The CRC maintains and staffs transit facilities. CRC staff register returnees according to specific destinations identified during their transit in the Kangvar Centre.

The vast majority of Cambodian refugees residing in camps in Thailand and returnees to date will require reintegration assistance in addition to voluntary repatriation support. However, continued fighting and the presence of landmines in the main areas of origin or preferred destinations, such as Samrong, Anlong Veng, and Samlot, have prevented the full implementation of rehabilitation programmes. It is hoped, however, that these areas will become accessible as hostilities abate. Landmine demarcation, mine-awareness campaigns and, when necessary, road clearance will be undertaken in target areas as complementary measures to more comprehensive de-mining programmes by specialized agencies. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC), Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Halo Trust are being consulted to provide de-mining assistance in UNHCR-identified priority locations.

Basic reintegration assistance

The World Food Programme provides a 40-day ration (consisting of 20 kilogrammes of rice, 1.2kgs of oil, 0.8 kgs of fish and 0.4 kgs of salt) for all returnees arriving in Cambodia. The Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) provides cooked food to returnees in transit at the Kangvar Transit Centre, in Sisophon, Banteay Meanchey Province. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides basic health care and supplies in the Kangvar Transit Centre and enroute to return convoys as necessary.

The Cambodian Family Development Services (CFDS) interviews returnees upon arrival at transit facilities in order to identify persons with special needs, such as female heads-of-households, unaccompanied minors, handicapped or chronically ill persons, and elderly persons without family support, who may require special reintegration follow-ups. On the basis of CFDS' monitoring results, some 10 per cent of the returnee population have special needs. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of the remaining camp population in Thailand will require special attention on return. CFDS regularly visits vulnerable households and reports to UNHCR on remedial support activities.

Quick Impact Projects

Expected larger-scale repatriations and high returnee concentrations in the Samrong, Samlot and Anlong Veng areas in 1999 will enable UNHCR and its partners to design and launch more substantial Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) benefitting returnee communities. QIPs will target villages and towns with significant numbers of returnees and vulnerable persons, and where housing and other infrastructure were looted or destroyed as a result of fighting. QIPs will focus on providing safe drinking water and rehabilitating transport and community infrastructure, including bridges, schools, and health centres. Income-generating activities, such as small-scale crop production, livestock breeding activities, and on-the-job training for occupational skills, will target the most vulnerable and needy persons. Returnee women's participation in project design and implementation will be encouraged. QIPs will be implemented in partnership with United Nations agencies and with international and local NGOs operating in returnee areas. UNHCR will strengthen its offices in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Sisophon, and Siem Reap in 1999.


UNHCR has established an umbrella relationship with the NGO Consortium (Save the Children USA, World Learning and World Education) under which QIPs will be administered, monitored, and evaluated. UNHCR will continue to cooperate closely with existing government structures, such as the Provincial Rural Development Committees, which coordinate micro-projects selected at the village level. A well-established network of United Nations agencies, including the UNDP/OPS Cambodia Resettlement and Reintegration (CARERE) project, WFP, UNICEF, ILO, and WHO as well as local and international NGOs with programmes in returnee areas, work closely with UNHCR to coordinate their development-oriented activities with the returnee monitoring and reintegration programme. Local capacity-building is an important part of UNHCR's assistance.


It was hoped that all refugees would have been able to voluntarily repatriate to Cambodia in time to participate in the national elections in July 1998. But the absence of a peace settlement and continued fighting in their areas of previous residence prevented most refugees from returning. UNHCR remains hopeful that the national elections will result in political stability and peace within Cambodia and that all Cambodian refugees in Thailand will be able to return in safety as soon as possible. It is hoped that repatriation momentum will resume in late 1998 and will be completed in the first half of 1999, allowing the camps to be closed by the end of June 1999. Returnee monitoring and reintegration assistance in Cambodia will be extended to December 1999.

The relatively limited number of returnees to Cambodia as of the end of September 1998, and their broad dispersal within 19 provinces, complicated the provision of reintegration assistance. Nevertheless, several rehabilitation QIPs in the sectors of infrastructure, water, sanitation and crop production were implemented in three provinces (Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap) during 1998, benefiting both the returnees and the local communities.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in Cambodia, Thailand and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support220,139
Water supply267,332
Shelter/Other Infrastructures404,095
Community Services119,078
Crop Production231,100
Livestock/Animal Husbandry76,115
legal assistance/protection14,493
Agency Operational Support681,422
Programme Delivery Costs*1,811,342
Administrative Support costs659,725

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.