Thai / Cambodia Border Refugee Camps 1975-1999

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Thai / Cambodian Border History

Khmer Border History - is in the eye of the beholder


(This is a collection of information from many sources. Feel free to comment on or add to it.)

For many years the Thai / Cambodian border served as a separate or second Cambodia. The perspectives from the border were different from those inside Cambodia. There was even a tension and friction between aid agencies working on opposite sides of the border. People working on the border were accused of helping the KR and supporting military action, those working in Cambodia were accused of supporting and prolonging an untenable and dictatorial regime installed by the Vietnamese.


Cambodia gains independence from France.


Geneva Conference on Indochina recognizes Cambodia's neutrality.


Left wing opponents of Sihanouk (including Pol Pot) leave Phnom Penh to join other insurgents in the jungles and mountains of Cambodia.


March 18

U.S. bombing of Cambodia begins, in secret, aimed at Vietnamese base camps on Cambodian territory.


March 18

Coup against Sihanouk in Phnom Penh, led by Lon Nol and Sirik Matak.


March 23

Sihanouk announces formation of Front Uni National du Kampuchéa (FUNK), or National United Front of Kampuchea with his former enemies the Khmer Rouge, to oppose Lon Nol regime.


2 million Cambodians made homeless between the U.S., Lon Nol and the Khmer Rouge.


January 27

Paris Agreement signed ending the war in Vietnam. Article 20 called on all foreign countries to put an end to all military activities in Cambodia.

February 8

Massive U.S. bombing resumed after a halt since January 27.

August 15

U.S. Congress legislates a halt to bombings. American bombings in Cambodia end. Since 1969, over half a million tons of bombs have been dropped in Cambodia. Nearly half of these (257,465 tons) have fallen since the beginning of 1973.


Thailand establishes diplomatic relations with China.

January 1

Beginning of Khmer Rouge offensive against Phnom Penh.

April 17

Capture of Phnom Penh by Khmer Rouge troops from several zones. Immediate evacuation of nearly the entire population.

April 30

Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese.


Thailand is one of the first non-communist countries to give diplomatic recognition to the Khmer Rouge government.

September 9

Sihanouk returns to Cambodia, after having lived in exile since 1970 following a session of the United Nations.


Foreign Minister Ieng Sary of Democratic Kampuchea visits Bangkok for talks on establishing normal relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

November 17

An official Thai-Cambodian Liaison Committee is established at Aranyaprathet and Poipet on the Thai / Cambodian border.


August 30

Official trading between Thailand and Cambodia resumes.


Ban Thai Samart, also known as the Aranyaprathet camp 15, opened to accommodate Khmers arriving since the spring of 1975.


Coup by extreme right-wing sections of the Thai military.


A group of Cambodian refugees is handed back across the border to the Khmer Rouge; there were reports that these refugees were all immediately executed by the Khmer Rouge.


By the end of the year the new Thai junta is giving more help to anti-Communist Khmer Serei (Free Khmer) guerrillas along the border. 

Border consultations are dropped by Phnom Penh



Khmer Rouge troops attack three villages in a disputed area of the border just north of Aranyaprathet.

January 4

11 Cambodian attacks on villages in Vietnam.


Incidents along Thai-DK border in which several dozen villagers are killed. DK claims the villages are inside its territory and that the incidents are therefore an "internal matter".

April 30

Large-scale DK attacks on the Vietnam. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese flee into interior of Vietnam.

September 12

A group of Voluntary Agency heads convene to discuss the evolving refugee problem in Thailand.

September 19

The Committee for the Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT) is formed.


General Kriangsak Chamanand, a relatively moderate military figure, becomes Thai Prime Minister.

Relations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh begin to improve.

Support for the Khmer Serei is cut back.

December 16

Vietnamese launch a 14 division attack on DK; encounter heavy resistance on a11 fronts, except in the Eastern zone.

December 22

Serious incident occurs in DK / Thai frontier. During this period, CPK formalizes secret cooperation with insurgent guerrillas of Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) who are allowed bases on DK territory.



Thai Foreign Minister Uppadit visited Phnom Penh.

July 3

Beijing suspends its aid to Hanoi.

December 22

Major Vietnamese offensive launched against DK, Kratie falls five days later, Kompong Cham within a week.



DK leadership formally decides to abandon cities and resume guerrilla warfare.

January 5

Capture of Takeo. Speech by Pol Pot, marked by violent language and racist tone, announces the resumption of guerrilla warfare. Despite preparations beforehand, the evacuation of the DK cities is disorganized, and much documentary material eventually falls into the hands of the Vietnamese, such as the records of the DK interrogation center at Tuol Sleng, as well as evidence concerning thousands of Cambodians tortured and executed there.

January 5-7

Khmer Communist dissidents hold a rebel Party Congress.

January 7

Soon after the DK leadership departs the city, largely by train for the northwest, the Vietnamese enter Phnom Penh. Sihanouk is evacuated by air to China. Chinese advisors unable to depart via Kompong Som go overland with DK officials and eventually reach Thailand.

January 8

Formation in Phnom Penh of People's Revolutionary Council (PRC), headed by Heng Samrin.

January 11

Ieng Sary visits China and asks for aid for DK on an urgent basis: he is promised the equivalent of $5 million "for the time being." In Phnom Penh, the Peoples' Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) is installed. Headed bv Heng Samrin, the government includes Hun Sen (Foreign Affairs), Keo Chenda (Culture and Information), Mot Sakun (Economy), Chea Sim (Interior) and Pen Sovan (Defense). Sovan, a former Issarak who had lived in Vietnam since 1955, is later revealed as the secretary-general of a newly constituted Communist Party, the Kampuchean Peoples' Revolutionary Party (KPRP). The new leadership is a mixture of long-time residents of Vietnam, 1978 defectors like Samrin, and several non-Communist intellectuals.

February 17

Powerful Chinese offensive against Vietnamese provinces bordering China, in order to "teach Vietnam a lesson" for invading Cambodia. Toward the beginning of March, the Chinese withdraw, following some major battles, without being able to force the Vietnamese to withdraw from Cambodia.

March 19

Sihanouk, in Beijing, breaks his relations with the KR, against Chinese advice, while Chinese and Vietnamese engage in diplomatic offensives to gain approval for their respective client regimes.

January - March

In the struggle between DK forces and the Vietnamese, DK at first are able to launch important attacks from their bases, which at this stage are not far removed from the rice-producing central plain. Because the DK forces persist in frontal assaults, however, Vietnamese tactical flexibility and greater firepower soon force them to retreat into regions inhospitable to agriculture, including mountain ranges along the Thai frontier, and dense forests in the southwest. From this point on, the sufferings of the 500,000 civilians who have followed the KR retreat (or have been herded along) increase. What food there is, tends to be reserved for soldiers and cadre. Many military units collapse from hunger and because no new supplies arrive from China. The morale of civilians breaks down, and they are prevented from escape by their distance from Thailand and by KR prohibitions against leaving. Perhaps 200,000 of them perish in the next six months.

April - May

Beginnings of flood of refugees coming out of Cambodia into camps in Thailand. The numbers swell noticeably after September, when people in Cambodia realize that not enough rice has been planted earlier in the year for harvesting in November and December.

May 24

Queen Sirikit visits Khao Larn where about 10,000 Khmer Rouge controlled villagers have sought shelter.

May 30

ICRC provides food and medicine for an estimated 40,000 refugees on the Thai-Cambodian border.

June 8-12

Forced repatriation of 42,000 Khmer across the border at Preah Vihear. ICRC suspends assistance.

June 18

ICRC approaches the Heng Samrin regime about emergency assistance in Cambodia.

June 29

A formal Congressional appeal to President Carter calls on him to order "immediate humanitarian assistance to Kampuchean refugees."

June 30

Royal Thai Government asks the World Food Program to provide food for 40,000 Khmer refugees on the border.

July 10

Khmer Rouge asks UNICEF for aid.

August 19

Thai National Security Council Secretary General announces approval for transit of relief supplies to Cambodia.

August 29

ICRC begins sporadic airlift of relief supplies into Phnom Penh.

September 17-19

ICRC/UNICEF Team conduct initial survey of Khmer Rouge areas and recommend aid program to these refugees.

September 20

ICRC's initial 1,000 metric ton rice program is underway feeding at twelve locations along the border.

September 21

People's Republic of Kampuchea protests the aid mission to the Khmer Rouge.


UNHCR builds Sakaeo holding Center.

October 10

An estimated 60,000 Khmer Rouge and civilians under their control flee across the Thai border at Khlong Wa and, shortly thereafter, a little south at Khlong Gai Thuen.

October 11

First relief mission to Nong Samet.

October 19

ICRC/UNICEF lead relief agencies announce a worldwide appeal for $11 million based on Heng Samrin government assurances that food would go to the needy.

October 24

President Carter announces that America will contribute about one third of the Cambodian relief budget.

The first 30,000 refugees from Khlong Wa enter the Sakaeo Holding Center. UNHCR handles administrative mechanics.

November 5

Heng Samrin regime announces that Mekong River is open for aid shipments to Phnom Penh.

At a UN conference, 75 countries pledge $210 million for Khmer relief.

November 8

Thai artillery fire hits Nong Chan border camp.

November 9

Mrs. Rosalyn Carter visits Sakaeo Holding Center.

November 12

Ms. Holtzmann of New York leads four American women Members of Congress and two Australian women senators to Phnom Penh.

Vietnamese attacks opposite Ban Laem drive 5,000 Khmer Rouge troops and villagers into Thailand. About half go to Kamput Holding Center.

November 21

Khao-I-Dang Holding Center, prepared by UNHCR on a few days notice, opens.


Replacement of Prime Minister Pol Pot with the politically moderate Khieu Samphan.


January 4-6

Khmer Rouge from Phnom Chat attack Camp 007 near Nong Samet. Mak Mun faction joins in. Camp 007 temporarily empties.

Mid January

Khao-I-Dang formally closed to new arrivals.

February 7

Relief figures and celebrities "March for Survival" at Aranyaprathet border point to protest lack of food distribution by Heng Samrin authorities.

February 29

Because the Kriangsak government seems to be unable to handle the crisis brought about by the Cambodian refugees, Kriangsak resigns.

UN Secretary-General Waldheim appeals for $262 million in new contributions for Khmer relief.

March 1

ICRC begins the first serious effort to Trace unaccompanied minors.

March 12th

General Prem Tinsulanonda, formerly Defence Minister and concurrently Army Chief, becomes Prime Minister of Thailand. He adopts a tougher anti-Vietnamese stand.

Early March

A Thai unit "Task Force 80" takes over security and administration at the Aranyaprathet area holding centers and border camps.

March 19 & April l1

Mak Mun leader Van Saren disappears and his camp is dispersed, after two separate attacks from Camp 007.

March 2l

Cross border rice seed distribution begins.

April 18

Special camp "NW-9" opens for Vietnamese who walk across Cambodia.

May 26

The UN Economic and Social Council holds a Kampuchea Humanitarian Conference at Geneva. Donors grant $116 million to Khmer relief.

June 17-18

Voluntary repatriation begins from Khao-I-Dang and Sakaeo.

June 23

Vietnamese Army incursion into the Ban Non Mak Mun area. In two days of shooting, 22 Thai soldiers, one Thai villager, scores of refugees and unknown number of PAVN troops are killed.

Early July

Sakaeo original holding center closes. Most refugees move to nearby Sakaeo II but about 5,000 transfer to Khao-I-dang.

July 9

UNHCR moves 6,500 Khmer from Khao-I-Dang to newly opened Phanat Nikhom for processing abroad.


UNHCR begins transfers of 70,000 Khao-I-Dang residents to Sakaeo II, Mairut, and newly-built Kap Choeng.

August 4-6

Secretary-General Waldheim visits Thailand, including a trip to the Thai-Khmer border. He had just been in Vietnam.


UNHCR officially installs an office in Phnom Penh to assist refugees who voluntarily return to Cambodia.


Task Force 80 trucks an average of 100 refugees a day from Khao-I-Dang to Nong Chan. The repatriation is voluntary reports semi-official radio Voice of Free Asia in a March 1981 broadcast.

December 11

Donor nations pledge $62 million for Khmer relief at a New York meeting.


January 1

ICRC ends its role as lead agency with UNICEF in Khmer relief. It remains on the border and in Phnom Penh in a medical role.


January 23-24

UNICEF suspended the land-bridge pending evaluation of need after the December-January harvest.


February 3-13

FAO team visits Cambodia to assess the harvest. It reports Cambodia will need 23,000 tons of rice seed for the 1981 planting season and 120,000 tons of milled rice from international relief to last until the next harvest.


February 8

Prince Sihanouk resumes political life after a period of inactivity saying he is prepared to lead a national front.


March 6

At a Donors' Meeting in New York, representatives tell the press that the emergency is over and hope to end assistance by December. The U.S. questions aid which does not bear directly on food self-sufficiency for- the interior. Experts from the recent FAO Team emphasize the fragility of recovery.


May 28

Representatives of 28 donor countries attend what is hoped to be the last substantive meeting' for the relief operation. UNICEF's Executive Director notes the uncertain existence of many Khmer on both sides of the border, as well as the plight of Thai villagers affected by the Cambodian situation.


June 6

Prince Sihanouk signs the statutes of his political body, the Front for a United, Neutral, Cooperative, Independent and Peaceful Cambodia (FUNCINPEC). A military wing entitled the Sihanouk National Army (ANS) forms with three components including the MOULINAKA organization.


June 26

Cross border seed distributions end with the final deliveries of 2,950 tons of seed by Volag (NGO) World Relief.


July 13-17

The UN International Conference on Kampuchea, with 78 nations participating, adopts a Declaration asking for cease-fire, withdrawal of foreign forces and free elections without armed intimidation of any faction. Kampuchea's future is envisaged as non-aligned and neutral and guarantees to ensure that status are sought from Security Council members, Southeast Asian states and others concerned. Vietnam rejects declaration, as does the Heng Samrin regime.


Camp NW9 for Vietnamese Land Refugees closes. Inhabitants transfer to Phanat Nikhom, processing center opened 9 July 1980.


September 4

In Singapore, Prince Sihanouk, KPNLF President Son Sann and Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan sign an agreement in principle to work toward creation of a coalition government.


October 19

A UNICEF press release notes the decision of its Executive Board to end UNICEF's role as the Lead Agency in the Kampuchea Emergency program,


November 9

A UNICEF report notes assistance to the Thai government to rehabilitate social services to an estimated 80,000 Thai in 75 villages in seven border provinces affected by the Cambodian situation.


December 15

A cumulative UNICEF report at the end of its mission as Lead Agency notes that 99,949 tons of rice were delivered along to border from UNICEF warehouses.


December 18

Camp NW 82 for Vietnamese land refugees opens at Nong Samet.


1981 - 49,731 Khmers leave Thailand for resettlement in third countries.


January 1

A Memorandum of Understanding among the United Nations, UNICEF and WFP regarding Emergency Relief Assistance in the Thai/Kampuchean border area in 1982 spells out details as WFP replaces UNICEF operationally. UNICEF loans its staff to WFP's newly created Border Relief Operation (BRO) for no more than six months.


May 1

Twenty thousand Khmer at Khao-I-Dang move to Kamput camp for US refugee processing.


May 27

At a Donors' Meeting, the U.S. announces that $5 million of its 1982 pledge is being channeled for WFP / UNBRO to support Voluntary Agency activities and to rebuild food stocks for emergencies. The money will be funneled through the UN's Kampuchea Emergency Trust Fund.


June 22

In Kuala Lumpur, principals of three resistance factions sign an agreement to create the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK) with Prince Sihanouk as President, Khieu Samphan as Vice-President and Foreign Minister, and Son Sann as Prime Minister.


July 7-9

Sihanouk visits Cambodian border camps of the three resistance factions, and the Khao-I-Dang Holding Center. By the end of July 15,000 in the Holding Center sign up for voluntary repatriation to his zone and 2,000 move in the first wave.


July 29

ICRC announces that its program to search for families of unaccompanied children in camps in Thailand has ended before completion because of failure to receive authorization to establish evidence of ties by direct contact with persons concerned in Cambodia. ICRC also notes that eight provinces in Cambodia have been opened to ICRC surveys for assistance to provincial orphanages.


October 1

WFP / UNBRO reports border populations at 215,000 for feeding purposes. 


Four thousand moved from Khao-I-Dang to the 0'Smach (Sihanoukist) border camp in September, joining the 2,000 who had moved in July.


Mid October

KPNLF Chief of Staff Dien Del resigns, accepting responsibility for the assassination of the Nong Samet camp head October 11 who was killed just after visiting him. A four-man Interim Command Committee replaces Del who subsequently visits China with KPNLF, President Son Sann.


November 25

An FAO Assessment Team leaves Cambodia after a visit of 23 days to examine the food situation. They traveled relatively widely and project a 100,000 ton deficit of food in 1983 noting problems of malnutrition, especially among children. The mission report accepts a population estimate of 7,033,000 for the PRK.


December 1

Since January 8,900 Khmer have voluntarily relocated from Holding Centers in Thailand to the Khmer border. More than 7,000 moved to Sihanoukist zones.


In northeastern Thailand. more than one thousand arms-carrying communists surrender en group to the government, represented by Army Commander General Arthit Kamlangek, thus practically ending the communist insurgency in this part of Thailand. As December 1, 1942 was the founding day of the Communist Party of Thailand, the party ceases to be a threat to the Thai government after exactly 40 years.


December 15

Donor nations meet in New York. The U.S. announces an end to its contributions for the interior program.


December 30

Radio Thailand announces a Supreme Command decision to close Sakeo II and Kamput camps. On December 17,000 people had moved from Sakeo II to Khao-I-Dang. Kamput camp closes after service since 1 May as a processing center for U.S. resettlement. Some 12,000 of 21,000 Khmer interviewed there were approved for admission to the US, the rest return to Khao-I-Dang.


1982 - 20,411 Khmers leave Thailand for resettlement in third countries.



First surgical facility on the Northern border opens, an ICRC unit at Kap Choeng, Surin


Cambodian government troops, backed by Vietnamese units, conduct a major offensive against the three united resistance factions. The fighting spills over onto Thai soil. More than 47.000 Cambodians flee to Thailand.


January 16

PAVN recaptures the hamlet of Yeang Dangkum, east of Nong Chan. The KPNLF captured the hamlet 26 December and held it as part of a series of initiatives at year's end.


January 21

Prince Sihanouk secretly arrives in Thailand for visits to resistance zones.


Vietnamese artillery attack forces the KPNLF base the 0'Bok pass to move into Thailand. Non-combatants return at the end of the month.


January 25

At the first Donor's Meeting of the year, the U.S. representative announces an intention to contribute 7.3 million dollars for the Border Relief Operation, noting that UNBRO staff "significantly increased relief work and monitoring" in isolated camps in northern and southern border areas. He reiterates the U.S. position that evidence does not demonstrate a need for an emergency program inside Cambodia and reaffirms that the U.S. will not contribute to it. Overall, donors pledge 14.95 million dollars. Sweden is alone in pledging 1.2 million dollars for the interior program.


January 31 - February 1

With heavy artillery support, armor-led Vietnamese troops (PAVN) destroy the Nong Chan camp. The population flees with unknown casualties while MOULINAKA units are brushed aside, and KPNLF forces withdraw after a 36-hour fight. The Khao-I-Dang hospital received over 100 civilian wounded.


March 31st

Vietnamese groups begins spraying bullets into the Khmer Rouge headquarters on Thai territory, drawing Bangkok into a defensive campaign. Intense exchange of artillery and tank fire kills 30 civilians and injures some 300 persons. Approximately 22.000 Cambodian civilians flee to Thailand for refuge.



PAVN destroy the camp of Phnom Chat, civilians evacuated to Red Hill.


Camp David is attacked and civilians moved to Green Hill.



Khao I Dang is designated as a processing center.


1983 - 29,138 Khmers leave Thailand for resettlement in third countries.


April 14

Ban Sangae is attacked - civilians are evacuated - KPNLF troops hold the camp after 10 days of fierce fighting. It is considered a notable victory for the resistance.



As tensions rise the camps of Samrong Kiat, Borai, Sok Sann, Ban Charat, Green Hill, Khao Din are evacuated as precautionary measures.


UNBRO places all camps on limited medical access.


May 11th

Pope John Paul II arrives in Bangkok for a two-day visit. He holds an open-air mass and visits refugee camps along the Cambodian border as a demonstration of his anti-communist position.


August 26

4,350 illegal Khao-I-Dang residents are registered and receive family cards which allow them to receive basic rations - but does not make them eligible for resettlement.


November 6

Vietnamese troops attack a lightly manned Thai border Patrol Police Outpost near Surin on the Thai-Cambodian border. 3 Thais die, 31 are wounded and 5 are missing.


November 18

Nong Chan attacked and falls after a week of fighting. Civilians moved to evacuation site 3 then 6.


December 8 

Nan Yuen is shelled and evacuated.


December 11

Sok Sann is shelled and evacuated.


December 25

Nong Samet attacked. Civilians evacuated to Red Hill. An estimated 200 war wounded evacuated to Khao-I-dang during first few days.


1984 - 21,706 Khmers leave Thailand for resettlement in third countries.


January 4

Ban Sangae population moved to site 1 as precautionary measure.


January 5

Paet Um attacked and evacuated.


January 7

Ampil (Ban Sangae) is attacked. The camp falls to the Vietnamese after a few hours of fighting.


San Ro population evacuated to Site 1.


January 20-23

Red Hill (formerly Nong Samet) population is moved to a site - adjacent to Khao-I-Dang.


January 24

Dong Ruk is shelled - 18 civilians are killed. Population flees to Site A.


February 12

Khao Din and Chrey (South of Aran) are evacuated.


February 13

Nong Pru, O'Shallac and Taprik (South of Aran) are attacked and evacuated to Site 8.


March 5

Tatum attacked. Green Hill population evacuated to Site B.


Dong Ruk, San Ro, Ban Sangae, and Vietnamese Land Refugees are all moved to Site 2.


March 6th

The Thai military forces some 1000 Vietnamese troops to retreat from one of three hills on Thai territory which the Vietnamese had captured during preceding days. Vietnamese troops are regularly intruding into Thai territory in attempts to outflank units of the Cambodian resistance groups. As these groups receive support through Thailand and even have possible escape routes through Thai territory, their backs are kept free - as long as Vietnamese troops attacking the resistance factions respect Thai territory. The Thai counter attack against the intruding Vietnamese troops leaves some 60 people dead.


April 13-14

Site 6 (Nong Chan) population is moved to Site 2 bringing total census of that evacuation site to 70,000.


April 20th

At Trat, some 1,200 Vietnamese troops attack Thai positions situated 3 to 4 kilometres from the Gulf of Thailand.



An approximate 230,000 Khmer civilians are in temporary evacuations in Thailand after a very successful Vietnamese dry season offensive.


1985 - Jan 1 - June 30 (6 months) 10,392 Khmers leave Thailand for resettlement in third countries.


July 17-18

8th Annual CCSDPT Conference.



Mar 25

Army Commander-in-Chief General Chavalit announces an all-out offensive against Vietnamese troops who have intruded into Thai territory beyond the set 5km limit.


August 4

The leader of the Chart Thai Party, General Chatichai Choonhavan, becomes the 17th prime minister of Thailand, he promises "to turn battlefields into market places".


First Paris Conference on Cambodia fails.


Vietnamese troops withdraw from Cambodia.


Singapore sends two covert arms shipments to NCR through Chartered Industries, including Armbrust and Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons. These weapons find their way in to KR hands.


KR capture Anlong Veng under Ta Kok.


Formation of the Supreme National Council (SNC), composed of six SOC members and two from each of the three opposition factions, including former DK President Khieu Samphan and Deputy Prime Minister Son Sen.


February 23

The Thai military topples the government. In a bloodless coup d'etat, led by Supreme Commander General Sunthorn Kongsompong and Army Commander Suchinda Kraprayoon, the administration of General Chatichai Choonhavan is ousted.


October 18

Cambodia's ruling Vietnam-backed People's Revolutionary Party adopts a new platform which endorses a pluralistic society. The party's General Secretary Heng Samrin is replaced by Chea Sim who is believed to be willing to cooperate with liberal-minded Prime Minister Hun Sen.


October 23

Paris Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict is signed. (Annexes)


UNAMIC is established immediately after Paris Agreement 


? Factions declare Cease Fire.


November 9

UNAMIC enters Cambodia.


? Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge representative to the SNC, is attacked by an angry mob in Phnom Penh.


January 9

Yasushi Akashi is named special Representative permanent secretary of the UN in Cambodia.



Banteay Chamar repatriation gathering.


March 15

Beginning of the UNTAC mandate.


April 25

Repatriation begins, first convoy from Site II staging point to Sisophon Reception Centre. The repatriation eventually returned 370,000 people, many more than once.



First Dharma Yaetra (Peace walk) from the Border to Phnom Penh.


June 1 - 17

Repatriation from Site II is halted because of a violent demonstration and protests against the terms of the repatriation and resettlement options (they want more money). There is extensive damage and looting in the camp.



Cantonment, disarmament and demobilization of the military factions begins. The Khmer Rouge, with a few exceptions, refuse to disarm.


July 10

Phnom Penh Post publishes its first issue. The first English language newspaper in Cambodia since 1975. According to Michael Hayes it is "an experiment in free press"; it has been successful. Another English language newspaper opens, the Cambodia Times but it is owned by Malaysians and is in the pocket of the SOC.


August 5

The UNTAC electoral law is promulgated by Akashi at a meeting of the SNC in Siem Reap.



Registration of political parties begins.

Voter registration begins.

1992 - Thailand has 10 billion baht invested in KR areas, 52 Thai companies have concessions to dig for gems in Pailin (Nation - Year in Review 1992).


January 28 

SNC sets the date of elections, 23-25 May 1993.


January 31

End of voter registration : 4,764,430 voters registered.


April 7

Beginning of the election campaign.


May 18

End of the election campaign.


May 23-28

UNTAC supervised elections in Cambodia.


June 10

Akashi declares that elections have been "free and fair".


FUNCINPEC 45.2% of the vote, the SOC's Cambodia People's Party (CPP) - 38.7%, BLDP 3.7%.


CPP refuses the election result.


Prince Chakrapong and Sin Song announce secession of 6 eastern provinces.


June 17

End of the secession.


June 20

CPP recognizes election results.


June 30

First meeting of the constituent assembly.

A provisional government is formed while the new Constitution is drafted.



Preh Vihear temple falls to KR.



Sihanouk is reinstated as King.


September 24

Promulgation of the Constitution.


UNTAC's mandate ended with the promulgation of the Constitution for the Kingdom of Cambodia and the formation of the new Government



UNTAC leaves Cambodia.


March 31

Timber trade between Cambodia and Thailand is officially banned.


March / April

March 21 - Government troops attack Pailin and drive civilians in KR controlled areas into Sabtali, Thailand. Reportedly the largest cross border movement of people since the Vietnamese offensive of 1985, 25-35,000. The military is roundly criticized for for stirring a hornets nest.


April / May

Cambodian civilians under the control of the KR are moved back into Cambodia from Thailand with the complicity of the Thai military, still under KR control.


WFP begins final final food distribution rations to border returnees. All returnees received one year of food, 40 day ration = 20Kg rice, 1 Kg oil, 1.2 Kg tinned fish, .4 Kg salt.


KR attack Poipet through Thailand.


Dhamma Yietra caught in firefight between government and KR troops, 2 killed.


April 19

KR retake Pailin.


April 21

KR attack Boeung Trakuan forcing 1,000 to flee to Thailand, they return in early May, voluntarily?


Battambang under siege by KR.


April 30

Expatriates in Sisophon evacuate to Aranyaprathet.


May 2 & 3

Battambang is threatened by the Khmer Rouge from all sides. The army fires at KR positions from military bases within the city (Hwy 10).

Expatriates evacuate Battambang in two convoys which arrive safely in Phnom Penh.


May 15

UNMLT leaves Cambodia.


KR attacks displace approximately 50,000 people who slowly return home through June as the attacks dissipate. The most severely affected are in Rattanak Mondol with 13,000 displaced and Sisophon with 11,000 IDPs. 2,000 homes are destroyed.



Coup plot involving Prince Chakrapong who goes into exile in Malaysia.


July 10

 KR announce formation of Provisional Government of National Union and National Salvation of Cambodia (PGNUNSC).



Two Thai loggers are killed in the border region. Phnom Penh blames the KR but there is more to it. This causes increasing tensions along the border.



The Thais occasionally shell CPAF forces either in support of KR troops or in retaliation for CPAF.



Ieng Sary granted an amnesty by the King (at the request of Hun Sein & Ranariddh).

Ieng Sary defects with 3-4000 thousand KR troops.


January / February

Fighting breaks out in Battambang between rival factions of the national army loyal to the two Prime Ministers.



Majority of Khmer Rouge at Anlong Veng, Cambodia, rebel against Gen. Ta Mok.



Prince Ranariddh ousted by co-prime minister Hun Sen in a bloody coup in July, forcing him  to flee the country.


35,000 Khmer refugees return to the border.


August 27

FUNCINPEC forces loyal to co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh's retreat from O'Smach through Chong Chom Pass into Thailand.


August / September

Hun Sen appoints Ung Huot, the FUNCINPEC Foreign Minister as 'first' Prime Minister.



Refugee camp Mamuang, opens to accommodate new FUNCINPEC refugees.



3,596 Cambodians repatriate by land with UNHCR assistance between October 1997 and February 1998. Another 229 Cambodians, mainly members of Ranariddh's party and their relatives, return by air between December 1997 and April 1998.


? Ranariddh is found guilty in two show trials before a military tribunal, is pardoned by his father, and returns to Phnom Penh.



In April, Thailand, Cambodia, and UNHCR hold talks on the repatriation of the 64,000 Cambodians who fled to Thailand in 1997. The goal is to repatriate the refugees in time to register for the July 26 general elections.


April 16

Pol Pot dies.


May 1-3

Cambodian government forces seized control of Anglong Veng, resulting in the surrender of two Khmer Rouge leaders.


Approximately 25,000 of the Cambodians who had fled Anglong Veng crossed into northeastern Thailand, which had initially blocked their entry. Thai troops manning a gate at Sa-Ngam Pass allowed the Cambodians to enter. The government later relocated the refugees to a site at Ban Sae Prai in Phu Sing District.



By July 20, six days before the Cambodian election, the number of UNHCR-assisted returnees reached just 6,000 (far short of the 64,000 goal). However, UNHCR estimated that thousands more had returned without its assistance. At that point, the official repatriation was halted. Thailand and UNHCR had agreed to stop the returns one week before and after the voting, because of concerns about violence.


July 26 and 27 

National Election.

Official electoral results give the CPP 41.4% of the vote, FUNCINPEC 31.7% and the KNP 14.3%. A controversial formula used to allocate seats gives Hun Sen a parliamentary majority.



Repatriations resumed August 4.


At the end of 1998, 7,143 Cambodians had repatriated during the year and nearly 10,000 since October 1997 with UNHCR assistance. As many as 40,000 Cambodians returned by their own means.



In early February UN officials began investigating whether 11,000 Cambodian returnees from Thailand were coerced by remaining Khmer Rouge leaders to return to their former base at Anlong Veng despite their wishes to go elsewhere. A UNHCR official noted, "We doubt the 'voluntariness' of their final destination....A lot of these families don't want to follow the people they have been following for the last 25 years." The results of the investigation were mixed, with UNHCR concluding that some coercion had likely taken place.


15 February

Cambodian Returnees Joint Press Statement - The Royal Government of Cambodia, Royal Thai Government and The United Nation High Commissioner For Refugees, following the Second Consultative Meeting, Phnom Penh.


24 March

UNHCR-assisted repatriation of Cambodians from Thailand was completed. As of that date all Khmer refugee camps had been closed.


25 December

The remaining Khmer Rouge officially rejoin the nation.

Cambodian Refugee Departures, 1975 - 1998
Year Total Emigration USA Refugee Admissions Year Total Emigration USA Refugee Admissions
1975 7,261 4,600 1987   1,539
1976 5,251 1,100 1988   2,805
1977 2,970 300 1989   1,916
1978 3,384 1,300 1990   2,166
1979 17,323 6,000 1991    38
1980 27,200 16,000 1992   141
1981 49,731 27,100 1993   22
1982 20,411 20,234 1994   6
1983 29,138 13,115 1995   1
1984 21,706 19,851 1996   0
1985   19,097 1997   0
1986   9,789 1998   108
Total         147,228

Partial Source: US Committee for Refugees; Refugee Reports


1985 - Jan 1 - June 30 (6 months) 10,392


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All photos by Richard Rowat unless otherwise specified