Thai / Cambodia Border Refugee Camps 1975-1999

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

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Site II / Site 2 / Site Two

Site II / Site 2, the largest of the Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai / Cambodian border was a KPNLF (Khmer Peoples' National Liberation Front) administered Khmer refugee camp located 70Km north of Aranyaprathet on the Thai / Cambodian border, the closest town was Taphraya, which was home for many NGO workers and the entry point to the KPNLF "Liberated Zones".

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(Photos by Richard Rowat)

 Khmer new year was a favourite time for Dalang in Site II (61934 bytes)  Khmer arts in music and dance were passed from one generation to the next (34364 bytes)  Buddhist monks in Site 2 / Site II (47830 bytes)  Water truck - Site II / Site 2 (58410 bytes)

 Dalang

 A study in concentration

 Buddhist monks are an indispensable part of life

 Water always seemed to be an issue, too much or too little

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Kids (nice wheel chair!) A nice place to live A not so nice place to live After a fire
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This was a Special Ed school bus, one of two I donated to the programme in Site II

Site II - Sub-Camps

Site II consisted of many of the old KPNLF camps which had been overrun by Vietnamese offensives and the civilian populations had been brought together in one place. Each sub-camp had its own Khmer administration and these spent much of their time squabbling amongst themselves and making sure they got their own fair share but little time looking after their people. NGO staff were not permitted to remain in the camps after 4PM. At night the camps could take on a more military air with tanks and other military vehicles occasionally rumbling through the streets. 

Site II / Site 2 Sub-Camps

Site II / 2 - North

Ampil

Dang Rek

Nong Chan / Nam Yuen

Sanro

Site II / 2 South

Nong Samet / Rithysen

O'Bok

1989 Border Khmer Demographic Survey - includes camp descriptions and populations

Background

See - 1989 Border Khmer Demographic Survey - includes camp descriptions

Site II / 2 was big, one could easily become lost wandering around it. It was so big that the Thais could not control it as they did the other camps. This was good and bad, it allowed more personal freedom and presented more opportunities but on the down side there was less law and order, justice often took the form of revenge with a gun or a grenade. There were all types of businesses from restaurants where you could get a fresh lobster and a beer to machine shops that would fabricate parts for our printing presses, from tailors that would custom make a suit or uniform to jewelers designing and fabricating unique pieces. On a darker side you could also buy antiquities stolen from archeological sites such as Angkor, this was a favoured activity between resistance commanders and Thais.

 

Site II developed a strong infrastructure mostly with the help of UNBRO and the NGOs. There were two universities with varied programmes. I employed an woman accountant who was very competent. At first there was some resistance to her but she soon fit in and became part of our team. There was a bi-weekly Khmer language newspaper distributed to all of the UNBRO border camps, as time passed this became quite an independent publication sometimes annoying powerful individuals in the camps and coming under threat. Heng Bo was the editor and quite a brave man considering the threats that came his way. Site 2 had a Khmer judicial system with a court and judge, again as time passed this became an independent and effective part of the infrastructure, it came to judge serious cases involving corruption and violence; there was a prison system to support it. 

 

Buddhism was integral part of life in the camps. Site II came to have the largest Khmer temple in the world at the time (Wat Prasatsiri located in Rithysen camp Site 2) with more than 200 monks. The abbot was the Venerable Pin Sem who not only led his monks but also acted as intermediary and conciliator when there was strife between sub-camps and other situations that could lead to conflict and violence. The Venerable Pin Sem's efforts at reviving traditional Khmer art forms is renowned and continues to this day in Siem Reap. Also little known was that he collected and preserved ancient ceramics, wall paintings and wooden Buddhas. Some of these he acquired from traders who otherwise would have sold them to Thais in Site II. This collection is now housed and displayed at Wat Bo in Siem Rieap.

 

Programs

UNBRO was responsible for coordination of all matters relating to the provision of aid and assistance in the camps. They were directly responsible for food and water. All other support was provided by NGOs, either funded by the UN or privately.

 

ARC - Medical

COERR (Catholic Office for Emergency and Refugee Relief)- Education, Dombosco Vocational School and Social Programs, Unaccompanied Minors and other shelters

CONCERN - Sanitation, Construction, Site Maintenance

COR (Christian Out Reach) - MCH (Mother Child Health)

HI (Handicap International) - Hospital for Land Mine Amputees and Rehabilitation

ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) - Family Reunification

IRC (International Rescue Committee) - Special Education and Printing

SIPAR - French as a Second Language

YWAM (Youth With A Mission)

 

Site II / 2 - Population

1989 - 145,000 (Border Khmer Report)

1991 - 198,582 

 


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Last modified: 17/01/14

All photos by Richard Rowat unless otherwise specified