August 2011

 

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A Message from Phum Srol

Apsaraporn Chanchai


Over a weekend during the month of February, Thai and Cambodian friends, including myself, were able to share and donate to the displaced and troubled villagers of the Thai-Cambodia temple dispute. The areas we were able to visit and assist included Phum Srol village in Kantharalak District and Sae Prai village in Phu Sing District in Sisaket Province in Thailand. We encountered demolished village buildings, which included homes, shops and other facilities that were all targeted during the fighting earlier that month.

My personal reflection of the visit was how I endeavored to be an amenable visitor who could bring about a little bit of hope in the face of adversity during this unpredictable as well as difficult cross-border feud.

I spoke with a woman in Phum Srol village whose house was completely destroyed in the troop clashes that had erupted at Puh Makuea Mountain near the Thai–Cambodia border. She narrated her story even as tears streamed down her cheeks. She was able to relay the true feelings of the villagers when she uttered these words: “Extrinsic reparations had been already and totally paid, but her completely ruined heart is irredeemable.”

My heart suddenly went out to her because what she said perfectly reflected how the fighting caused pain and suffering for her. Solely providing a new house and other facilities cannot heal her severely destroyed heart.

Would anything else help cure the damaged hearts of these men, woman and children living in the disputed areas but talks between the Thai and Cambodian governments to reach a ceasefire agreement? Leaders of the two countries should take the interest of common people into consideration because all people living in the disputed areas want NO WAR. However, the two governments unbelievably disregard what their people call for.

Nevertheless, a very heartfelt account arose out of the midst of this depressed atmosphere. A Cambodian girl in our team was looking during the limited time we were in Phum Srol village for her compatriot who had settled there. As we traveled throughout the village, she was able to engage villagers and ask them of her friend’s whereabouts. However, good fortune was on her side as a Thai soldier who took care of us throughout our visit made every effort to help her. She was reunited with her friend before our departure.

To witness my Cambodian companion’s extremely ecstatic embrace upon seeing her friend again, together with the Thai soldier’s act of generosity, brought a great sense of shared humanity between the people of both countries, even though they have different nationalities and are hedged in by a national boundary.


Notes
1. Phum Srol is a Khmer word (phum = a village and srol = a pine forest).
2. Sae Prai is a Khmer word (sae = a rice paddy and prai = a forest).


* The name of the author of this article is a pseudonym. The article was translated by Atchara Simlee.