Cambodian refugees flood into Thailand

Chong Chom Pass, Thailand (AP) - Cambodian refugees streamed into neighbouring Thailand by the thousands yesterday, fleeing what they feared was an imminent assault by troops loyal to the Cambodian coup leader Hun Sen.

Wheeling carts and herding chickens, pigs and cows, families began their exodus from the threatened village of O'Smach in the dead of night. The flood of people and animals across the border went on into the early hours of today.

The evacuation came after Hun Sen's troops were seen on the outskirts of O'Smach, five miles from the border town of Chong Chom Pass, Cambodian and Thai officials said.

The refugees' flight presaged what refugees and Thai officials expected would be an all-out fight later today for O'Smach, the last stronghold of supporters of Hun Sen's ousted rival, Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

An estimated 30,000 people had massed at O'Smach for weeks, desperate to escape the violence accompanying Hun Sen's bloody 5-6 July ouster of Prince Ranariddh. With the prince's supporters outgunned and outmanned, the refugees have been preparing to cross the border since Friday, when shelling by Hun Sen's troops became closer and more frequent. Thailand had said it would admit the refugees if their lives were in immediate danger in the fighting.

By this morning, only soldiers providing security for the exodus could be seen in O'Smach. The last refugees were making their way through the border checkpoint and into a temporary camp at Khueng Hoeichueng, a mile inside Thailand.

About 100 Thai soldiers escorted the refugees, shining lights for people to make their way in. Refugees panicked briefly yesterday afternoon when word reached the civilians that Hun Sen's forces had somehow managed to scale the mountain that served as their last line of defence, and were at the edge of the village. Prince Ranariddh's forces had called the mountain impregnable, saying it was heavily mined and booby trapped.

Heavy shelling was also heard west of the village, raising fears of fierce fighting today after the usual nighttime break in hostilities. At that point, leaders in the village asked for and got permission to take the refugees into Thailand.

The exodus itself went peacefully. The Cambodian families made their way quietly by foot to their new camp, carrying belongings that had been packed for days.Tiny children helped push their families' wooden carts. The tired among them sat by the side of the narrow border road briefly for a rest.

Aad Yo, 60, waited by the side of the road with a broken cart, hoping for a friend to come by with a new one. "I was very afraid of Hun Sen, afraid that [Ranariddh's] soldiers would shoot and I would be in the middle," he said. "I was afraid to get hit by accident. I could not stay anymore."

After one night in the temporary camp, the refugees are to move to a better site four miles away. O'Smach apparently remained in the hands of troops loyal to Prince Ranariddh. Thai military officers said only one to two miles separated the enemy forces - and they, too, expected heavy fighting later today.

In Bangkok, an exiled member of Cambodia's Parliament said O'Smach remained in the hands of Prince Ranariddh's supporters. The legislator, Ahmed Yahya, said a commander loyal to the prince, General Khan Savoeun, had dismissed a claim from Hun Sen's side that its forces were within one mile of the village.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week
voicesThe great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick