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Locals vow to stay and fight if they must

While many villagers from the volatile border area have left, others pledge to stick it out

The firing of artillery shells and rockets along the Cambodian border
has forced thousands of residents living in Si Sa Ket province to flee
for their safety. But some have refused to leave and are vowing to
fight to defend their homes against a possible incursion by Cambodian
troops.

A section of road linking Ban Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak
district to nearby Don-aow village was damaged by artillery shells
fired by Cambodian troops during fresh clashes between Thai and
Cambodian soldiers. JETJARAS NA RANONG
“As we were born and grew up here, we will safeguard our village to
prevent Cambodian soldiers from seizing our land or looting our
belongings,” said Cha Mathong, 53, of Ban Phum Srol in Si Sa Ket’s
Kantharalak district.
“I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend my homeland.”
Mr Cha is one of 20 men in their 50s who have refused to leave their
border village since clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops erupted
on Friday night.
The men, calling themselves “Phum Srol Residents Who Love Their
Motherland”, show no fear in protecting their village despite the
fierce border clashes.
Some have lost a leg after stepping on landmines years ago – a stark
reminder of the volatility that has characterised the border region
over many decades.
Fresh fighting erupted along the border on Sunday, forcing thousands
of residents to abandon their border villages and seek shelter in
Kantharalak’s main town.
But not all.
“I cannot leave,” Mr Cha said.
“Although my family is not rich, I am afraid of looting and theft if
no one stays home. More importantly, I want to protect my village from
the Cambodians.”
When Cambodian troops fired shots across the border on Sunday night,
his group fled into bunkers to avoid incoming shells, emerging at 10am
yesterday.
“We were extremely hungry as we did not eat on that day,” he said.
“But we can stand and we will not leave our village, no matter what happens.
“Even if Cambodian troops storm our village, we will fight.”
Boonmee Pattama, front, a resident of Si Sa Ket’s Kantharalak district,
and two other villagers stay inside a bunker to escape artillery
shells. JETJARAS NA RANONG
Mr Cha’s group believes Thai troops will win and protect the country’s sovereignty.
Another member of the group, Boonmee Pattama, 59, said there had
been rumours about more clashes so those who were guarding their
villages would panic and flee, but his group had not been swayed.
There were also rumours that Cambodian troops had targeted central
Kantharalak town, about 30 kilometres from the border, and would attack
the district with artillery shells, Mr Boonmee said.
He called on the People’s Alliance for Democracy and its splinter
group, the Thai Patriots Network, to stage their rallies in his village
rather than in faraway Bangkok.
He wanted the yellow shirts to experience for themselves what border
villagers face.
The local people had become sitting ducks in the border
clashes, he said.
“[But] I will not leave,” Mr Boonmee said. “I will fight here until I die.”
Clashes between troops from the two countries have forced more than
3,000 residents from border villages into makeshift camps in central
Kantharalak. Residents of Ban Phum Srol have taken refuge in the area
since Friday. They were joined by villagers from Don-aow village in
tambon Rung, near Preah Vihear temple, on Sunday as fighting began anew.
Mee Jomsati, 72, a Don-aow resident, said she was having dinner when
rockets and artillery shells were fired into her village, about three
kilometres from the border. 
She was carried to a bunker by her
children, the elderly woman said.
Su Dokkaew, 59, another resident, said local people had been living in the fear for their lives following the border clashes.
She prayed the fighting would end soon so people could return to their normal lives.

Bangkok Post


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Categories: Local News
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