Thai / Cambodia Border Refugee Camps 1975-1999

Information and Documentation Website

Khao I Dang / Site II / 2 / Site B / Site 8 / Sok San / Site K / O'Trao

Photos, Maps, Statistics, People, Places and Events


Home - Border Camps - NGOs - UNBRO - Border History - Repatriation - Documents - Maps - Glossary - Links - About - Site Map - Contact


The Thai / Cambodia Border Camps 1975 - 1999

Over the years there were many camps along the Thai / Cambodian border. 

There were 5 significant population movements that created new camps and sometimes destroyed old camps:

Starting in 1975 with those fleeing the Khmer Rouge when they took power, followed in 1979 by those fleeing starvation and the advancing Vietnamese army, followed by those affected by the 1984/85 Vietnamese offensive along the Thai border, followed by those fleeing the 1997 coup by Hun Sen and finally followed by the remnants of the Khmer Rouge in 1998.

The last border camp closed in 1999.

Thai / Cambodian Border 1997

Childrn1.jpg (17809 bytes)

Children

Site2-07.jpg (59453 bytes)

Site II

Soldier

Photo by Erez Yanuv

Thai / Cambodian Border Camps 1975 - 1999

007 Early camp near Nong Samet, population went to Nong Samet.
Ang Sila Circa 1983. Evacuation site for Nong Chan prior its incorporation into Site II (1986). Received residents of Nong Chan temporarily during offensives of 1983.
Ampil Sub-camp of Site 2 and KPNLF military headquarters in Cambodia - Ban Sangae / Ban Sa Ngae.
Anlong Veng KR camp / stronghold, opposite Sisaket province, Thailand.
Aranyaprathet Aranyaprathet town had a number of camps.
Aranyaprathet camp 15 Ban Thai Samart - opened Sept. 1976.
Ban Baranae Circa 1984. FUNCINPEC camp, see Site B.
Ban Mamuang September 1997 to March 1999, housed refugees from coup. (United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), Vulnerable Groups Survey: Ban Mamuang and Khao Phlu Camps, Bangkok: UNHCR, 1998)
Ban Napho Lao border camp - MOI.
Ban Nam Yao Lao border camp - MOI.
Ban Sae Prai 1998 camp in Phu Sing District, Sisaket. Refugees from Anlong Veng. Closed March 24, 1999.
Ban Sangae / Ban Sa Ngae see Ampil
Ban Thad UNHCR refugee camp for Vietnamese, adjacent to Site II. Closed in 1990.
Banthai Samath Active in 1987  (opening and closing dates unknown).
Ban Vinai Lao border camp - MOI.
Borai UNBRO / KR displaced persons camp in Trat, Thailand opposite Pursat province in Cambodia.
Bung Beng / Klong Wah KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
Camp 85 KR camp inside Cambodia - see Phum Doeng.
Chakri This was not so much a refugee camp as a ‘khum’ (hamlet) of scattered settlements hugging the Thai border. With a population of at least 10,000 people, it was made up in part by the former residents of the military camp known as "Khao Din" or "Site 8 North".
Chanmeh Circa 1983. Evacuation site for Nong Chan prior its incorporation into Site II (1986). Received residents of Nong Chan temporarily during offensives of 1983.
Chiang Kham Lao border camp - MOI.
Chong Bok KR camp.
Chu Kaki A meeting point for the Red Cross to receive war wounded in Odar Meanchey. The area around Chu Kaki has thousands of residents, many of whom formerly lived in the camp known as An Kbal Leov.
Dang Rek Sub-camp of Site 2, established in mid-1983, incorporated into Site 2 in March 1985.
David Circa 1984. FUNCINPEC camp, see Site B.
Green Hill FUNCINPEC camp near to Site B but in Cambodia.
Huay Chan UNBRO / Khmer Rouge displaced persons camp. Situated near the border of Sisaket province in Thailand and Preah Vihear in Cambodia.
Huay Cherng FUNCINPEC camp - 1997  (UNHCR Map)
Kab Cherng Lao border camp - MOI.
Kamput Holding Center Processing center for immigration to U.S. - opened 1979, closed Dec. 1982. Originally a KR camp, converted to a processing centre, then closed.
Kap Choeng Camp in Surin opened in Aug. 1980, ICRC surgical hospital.
Khao Din KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
Khao-I-Dang MOI / UNHCR Khmer refugee camp. Opened Nov. 21, 1979.
Khao Phlu September 1997 to March 1999, housed refugees from coup. ARC provided medical care. 1998, approximately 12,000 Cambodian refugees.
Klong Wah / Bung Beng KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
Lum Pi Ni Transit camp near the international airport in Bangkok. Circa 1981. Some people were moved through this camp to Galang camp in Indonesia. 
Mak Mun Population went to Nong Samet camp.
Mairut Camp / processing center (1980 - 81). Originally a KR camp for 2 years it was converted into a processing centre and the people moved  to Khao I dang. It was located in Trat province 2 km from Mairut village, 40 min. north of Klong Yai.
Nam Yuen see Nong Chan
Nam Yun KR camp.
Na Trao See O'Trao.
Nong Chan Sub-camp of Site 2, incorporated into Site 2 in 1986. A KPNLF camp inside Cambodia. Also known as Nam Yuen.
Nong Pru KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
Nong Samet 1 Original Nong Samet camp. Camp inside Cambodia, destroyed in 1984.
Nong Samet Sub-camp of Site 2 also known as Rithysen. Established in 1979 near Khao I Dang, incorporated into Site II after its destruction in December 1984. A KPNLF camp inside Cambodia / Red Hill. 
NW 82 Camp for Vietnamese land refugees opened at Nong Samet Dec. 1981.
NW-9 Camp opened for Vietnamese who walked across Cambodia - April 1980 to July 1981. 4.5 miles from Nong Chan.
O'Bok Sub-camp in Site II.
0 Plerng Chheh Known to the Thai as Sop Tlee, this area may also be regarded as a ‘khum’ of scattered settlements on the border.
O'Smach FUNCINPEC camp inside Cambodia, opposite Surin province, Thailand.
O’Sralau KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
O'Trao UNBRO / Khmer Rouge displaced persons camp. Situated near the border of Sisaket province in Thailand and Preah Vihear in Cambodia.
PARA 1987?
Phanat Nikhom Refugee processing center.
Phnom Malai KR stronghold in Cambodia, near Aranyaprathet.
Phum Doeng Known to the Thai as Nong Prue, this khum ( "hamlet") of scattered settlements is in northern Battambang Province due west of "Poipet Chas". It had a population of at least 1 0,000 people made up in part by the former residents of the KR military camp known as "Camp 85" or "Site 8 West".
Phum Tmey See Site 8.
Plerng Chheh Known to the Thai as Sop Tlee, this area may also be regarded as a ‘khum’ of scattered settlements in southern Battambang Province hugging the Thai border.
Red Hill Formerly Nong Samet.
Rithysen See Nong Samet in Site II.
Sakeo Holding Center Early Khmer refugee camp, opened October 1979. Near to Sakeo (now the provincial capital), off the road from Aranyaprathet to Sakeo. 

According to eyewitness reports nun by a KR commander by the name of Prak Lim. "I witness a few "repatriations" in those days, trucks of young KR fighters leaving the camp at about 11pm for the border.  A lot of the camp inmates resisted these repatriations and their appeals to the UNHCR man there went unheeded."

Sakaeo II Opened July 1980, closed in 1984. 
Sanro Sub-camp in Site II.
Site 1 Evacuation center in the vicinity of Site II.
Site II / Site 2 UNBRO / KPNLF displaced persons camp near Taphraya, Thailand.
Site 3 Circa 1983. Evacuation site for Nong Chan prior its incorporation into Site II (1986). Received residents of Nong Chan temporarily during offensives of 1983.
Site 6 Circa 1983. Evacuation site for Nong Chan prior its incorporation into Site II (1986). Received residents of Nong Chan temporarily during offensives of 1983.
Site 8 UNBRO / KR displaced persons camp south of Aranyaprathet, Thailand. Opened early 1985. Also known as Phum Tmey.
Site 8 North KR camp inside Cambodia, see Khao Din.
Site 8 West KR camp inside Cambodia - see Phum Doeng.
Site A  ?
Site B UNBRO / FUNCINPEC displaced persons camp 80Km from Surin, Thailand. Also known as Green Hill. Established June 1985.
Site E See Sok Sann.
Site K UNBRO / KR displaced persons camp in Trat, Thailand opposite Pursat province in Cambodia.
Sok San UNBRO / KPNLF displaced persons camp in Trat, Thailand opposite Pursat province in Cambodia. Also known as Site E.
Tap Prik KR Camp evacuated in 1985 to Site 8.
Tatum A FUNCINPEC camp of a least 20,000 people situated in Siem Riep province approximately two hours walk from Site B camp. It was the home for ANS combatant personnel and their families.
Ta Luan KR camp.

1989 Border Khmer Demographic Survey - includes camp descriptions and additional historical information.

Background

The border camps with the exception of Khao I Dang were managed by UNBRO (United Nations Border Relief Operation - under UNDP) and supported by the NGOs that ran the infrastructure programs.

The border camps were not recognised as refugee camps, that is, the UNHCR did not manage them or have any official connection with them. Khao I Dang  was the only UNHCR camp on the border, with its residents enjoying the rights due refugees, all of the other camps were "Displaced Persons" camps whose residents were not eligible for asylum, emigration, nutritional or health standards and rights due a refugee.

The displaced persons camps were formally under Thai control (JOC/SC), who in turn allowed the Cambodian resistance factions to control the civilian populations in each camp. These included the Royalist FUNCINPEC party, KPNLF - Khmer Peoples National Liberation Front and the Khmer Rouge or DK.

The displaced persons camps served the purposes of the Thais, China and the West. The Thais were trying to stop the flood of refugees and destabilize the Vietnam supported Phnom Penh government. The West also wanted to keep the pressure on both Vietnam and Cambodia and indirectly on the Soviet Union. China wanted to apply pressure on Vietnam. They accomplished this by supporting the resistance factions with arms, training and bases in Thailand. They legitimized their support by allowing the factions to herd Cambodian civilians into closed border camps in Thailand and claim them as supporters who needed humanitarian assistance.

Life in the Camps

According to Ogata (head of UNHCR) during a visit to the border in 1991, the Khmer were the "best cared for refugees in the world"; she added that this was a real disincentive for them to repatriate and that their services should be cut!

Life in the border camps was on the whole better than inside Cambodia - food, water, shelter, healthcare and education, all were consistent in provision and in most cases superior to what existed in Cambodia. But the population density and abnormal environment made for an unnatural and stressful existence. Many people came to use the camps as a backup during times of drought or fighting in Cambodia.

There was the dark side to the camps with all manner of exploitation and human rights violations ranging from conscription and forced population movements to extortion and physical abuse by Thai authorities. Add to this an abundance of war weapons and the potential for deadly violence multiplies. It was not unusual to hear of grenades and RPGs being used in personal disputes.

By 1992 the border camps were nothing short of Cambodian cities in Thailand, despite the efforts of the Thai government to prevent permanent settlements. One of the Thai rules was that there should be no permanent structures in the camps. They compromised by allowing concrete floors for our printing presses and large paper cutting machines, all other structures were made of bamboo and thatch. Some ingenious and well off Khmer built concrete bomb shelters to protect their families during periodic shelling or frequent bandit attacks on the camps.

 

Programs

After so many years the infrastructure was impressive, from the water and sanitation to ICRC's surgical hospital in Khao-I-Dang to the two functioning universities in Site II, there was little in Cambodia to compare.

Water -

provided and distributed directly by UNBRO

Sanitation and Site Maintenance -

CONCERN, IRC (KID)

Health care -

ARC, IRC, CRS, COERR, COR, CAMA, Handicapped International, UNBRO - pharmacy, surveillance, Psychiatric hospital - KID

Food -

provided and distributed directly by UNBRO

Each person on a family card received food ration (family cards were a constant source of counterfeiting and multiple registration). Those who worked were paid with an additional rice ration. Excess rice was sold to Thai traders who sold it back to the suppliers to UNBRO.

Education -

Primary education - coordinated by UNBRO, provided by Khmer, IRC (KID)

Secondary Education - COERR, IRC (KID)

Vocational Training - COERR, Dom Bosco, IRC

Teacher Training - IRC - KID

University - COERR, KP - Site II / 2

Printing - IRC, JRSC (KID only)

Computer training - IRC - Taphrya

Special Education - IRC - Site 2 / II

French Language - SIPAR - Site II / 2

 

There were 50,000 children in school using books printed in the camps, the literacy rate far exceeded that in Cambodia. There was a biweekly Khmer language newspaper.

 

Social programs -

AA - COERR - Site 2 / II

Prisoner rehab - COERR - Site II / 2

Khmer Fine Arts - IRC - KID

TMC - Traditional Medicine Clinics - KID

Unaccompanied Minors - COERR, IRC

LMAP - Land Mine Awareness Program - IRC - all camps

 

Border Refugee Population

Year Population Year Population
1975 1987
1976 1988
1977 1989
1978 1990
1979 1991
1980 1992
1981 1993
1982 1994
1983 1995
1984 1996
1985 1997

57,557 (UNHCR Map)

1986 1998

 


Home - Border Camps - NGOs - UNBRO - Border History - Repatriation - Documents - Maps - Glossary - Links - About - Site Map - Contact

Web Services by

disaster management (242 bytes)

Send mail to    with questions or comments about this website.

Last modified: 17/01/14

All photos by Richard Rowat unless otherwise specified