Cambodian troops at Preah Vihear temple are no longer facing water shortages after authorities dug wells along the frontline, officials said Thursday.
About a dozen wells have been dug and water pumps installed since January to supply troops with water during the dry season, said Chan Yuttha, cabinet chief of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.
“For the troops, there will be no problem with water,” he said. “They can pump from water wells and store it in water tanks.”
Earlier this year, troops complained that the two 800-year-old manmade pools where they got their drinking water had nearly run dry and that collecting water had become increasingly difficult and time-consuming.
The ministry has spent about $100,000 on the wells and pumps set up at several points around the temple and at the base of the mountain, notably Phnom Trop and Veal Entry, where gun battles with Thai soldiers erupted last October and earlier this month, and Kor Muoy village, he said. Each well can provide up to eight cubic meters of water an hour and tanks can store 60 cubic meters, he added.
The water wells and the new road to Veal Entry and Phnom Trop were inaugurated by Defense Minister Tea Banh in a ceremony April 10, said Preah Vihear Governor Preap Tann.
“On occasion, we have met difficulties [at the frontline]. So from that lesson, regardless of the conditions, we must continue to maintain our strong advantage to protect our sovereignty,” Mr Tea Banh told the troops in a speech broadcast Thursday morning on the military television station, TV5.
Meanwhile, officials from Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district Sunday brought medicine, food, clothes and drinking water to the soldiers stationed at the temple, said Meanchey district Governor Kuoch Chamroeun. Phnom Penh’s eight districts take turns sending supplies to the troops, with each one donating twice a year, he explained. Meanchey district brought 15 tons of fresh vegetables, 17 large bags of clothing, 150 big packages of noodles and $7,500, he added.
Visits by many senior government officials on the eve of the Khmer New Year lifted the spirits of the soldiers who were not able to go home for the holiday, he added.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan would not say whether that meant opposition members, who have previously been barred from the frontlines, could now also visit the troops.
“It depends on the situation. It depends on the local people there,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Isabelle Roughol)