The UN-sponsored World Food Program appealed last week for $6.5 million to provide emergency food aid to the growing number of Cambodians attempting to flee to Thailand.
WFP officials said the money is necessary to provide 14,990 tons of food for 90,000 Cambodians currently sheltered in camps in Surin, Si Sa Ket and Trat provinces, including some 10,000 refugees who officials say may cross into Thailand in coming weeks.
“Without aid, the situation for these people would be bleak,” said Martin Fischer, a WFP official in Bangkok. “They need aid to survive until conditions in Cambodia allow them to return to their homes.”
Officials from the Rome-based organization said the aid would help enlarge an existing WFP emergency operation begun last October that provides food for about 65,000 Cambodians.
Nellie Chan, director of the Phnom Penh office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, confirmed Friday that there are an estimated 80,000 refugees in Thailand. But she said she has no record of another 10,000 who may cross into Thailand soon.
“We have no reports of any large numbers to cross over,” she said. The latest report stated that about 190 crossed over to Si Sa Ket on June 17, she said.
Because of continuing security risks, officials say it looks increasingly unlikely that many refugees now at the Thai camps will cross back into Cambodia before the scheduled July 26 elections.