Cologne. The military conflict on the border between Thailand and Cambodia has escalated over the past week, leading more and more people to flee the area. In Samrong, the capital of the Oddar Meanchey province located only 30 kilometers from the Thai border in Cambodia’s north-western region, 11,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are currently receiving shelter in five IDP camps. They have fled from clashes in between Thai and Cambodian troops over the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples in the border region. The province authorities and the Cambodian Red Cross are supplying the IDPs with food and water. “The hygienic conditions, however, are terrible”, says Julia Brunner, Senior Desk Officer for Cambodia and Indonesia at Malteser International, the relief service of the Order of Malta for worldwide humanitarian aid.
Malteser International will supply the 11,000 IPDs with 3,000 hygiene kits containing soap bars, toothbrushes, laundry detergent and other everyday use items. In addition, the Malteser International team on site plans to introduce hygiene education and awareness measures as well as distribute garbage cans to improve waste management in the camps.
The conflict has also taken a toll on Malteser International’s staff on site. Many of Malteser International’s Cambodian workers are still traumatised from the times of the Khmer Rouge – for this reason, seven of the 25 Malteser International staff members have returned to their home provinces.
The current conflict, which started in 2008, stems from a decades-long dispute over control of the Preah Vihear temple. The most recent battles started on 22 April. In February 2011, heavy combats also drove many people away from the area. Official numbers estimate a total of 60,000 internally displaced persons.
Malteser International has been active in Cambodia since 1993, and attended to Cambodian refugees in Thailand from 1979 to 1999. The organisation conducts projects in the Oddar Meanchey region, which has about 200,000 inhabitants. Project areas include mother-child health initiatives and the development of a community-based health insurance system, which protects poor farmers from going bankrupt due to large medical expenditures in case of illness.
Attention Editors: Julia Brunner, Senior Desk Officer Cambodia/Indonesia at Malteser International is available for interviews.