The vast task of caring for tens of thousands of Kampuchean (Cambodian) refugees in Thailand is proving to be an undertaken approaching impossibility, at least for legitimate authorities.
GV: Street scenes and traffic in the town of Arranyaprathet (3 shots)
GV AND SV PAN: Goods being unloaded from trucks in Arranyaprathet (2 shots)
GV PAN: Thai soldiers checking Thai vendors' shopping bags for trading at Thai border check point
SCU: Thai soldier takes away a dress from a woman
SV: Clothing on ground
GV AND SV: Soldier continues searching Thai vendor. (2 shots)
SV Thai police checking documents from truck and van drivers. (2 shots)
GV: Exchange post
SV: Khmer Serei soldiers guarding exchange post
CU AND SV: Khmer woman sells gold at exchange post (3 shots)
GV PAN: Huts in Non Mak Moon camp
GV: Market in camp
SV AND CU: Radio, bicycle wheels, tires cold drinks on sale. (6 shots)
CU Women tries on slippers
SV: Woman holding a radio walking in camp
SV: Cow-drawn carts with goods leaving Thailand for Cambodia. (2 shots)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The vast task of caring for tens of thousands of Kampuchean (Cambodian) refugees in Thailand is proving to be an undertaken approaching impossibility, at least for legitimate authorities. The Red Cross as well as relief agencies backed by the United Nations, have catered to some of the need but the gap they leave has been filled by the purveyors of one of the world's oldest professions -- black marketeering.
SYNOPSIS: This is the Thailand town of Arranyaprathet. It is at the centre of both an international crisis an a tragedy. Just five kilometres (three miles) from here lies the Republic of Kampuchea (Cambodia). The countryside around Arranyaprathet is a temporary home for those who have fled Kampuchea. Some say those refugees number at least half a million, but the official figures are lower.
In the midst of the Kampuchean crisis, Arranyaprathet is an enigma Some foreigners refer to the centre as "Thailand's Klondyke". They say that because this border town is booming. It lives and grows not in spite of but because of the refugees. Arranyaprathet is a huge market town. According to its authorities, about a quarter of a million pounds sterling in cash (500,000 U.S. DOLLARS) changes hands here every day.
Thai police strictly control the business activities of both vendors and buyers. At first, the Thai army imposed a strict ban on trading at the refugee camps not far from Arranyaprathet. When that became impossible to control the army imposed limits on the amount of trading in the camps. And when that didn't work, restrictions were lifted and the police were charged with controlling the operation. Khmer Serei (Free Khmer) troops also guard the exchange posts. The main currency is gold -- family gold brought into Thailand by the displaced Kampucheans when they began to pour across the border in October, 1979.
The sprawling camp at Non Mak Moon is where most of the trade blossoms. This captive market centre has a population, according to relief agencies, of 60-thousand people. The refugees say it's five times that number -- 30 thousand But many of the Kampucheans are not full time residents; rather they stay at Non Mak Moon a few days, conduct their business, then return across the border to Kampuchea where they, in turn re-sell their goods. The permanent residents -- although a contradiction in terms for a "transit" camp -- do, however, want and need everything the traders bring.
The dealers who trade off the refugees' plight even recognise that in sweltering heat, people need a lot to drink. One vendor has the soft drink concession. He makes one pound sterling on cash crate of drinks. In a world of rising prices, inflation here is a way of life for buyer and seller alike. The inflation rate on rice, as an example, is running at a projected rate of three-thousand percent a year. But for Arranyaprathet where the population has risen from 16-hundred to 40-thousand in just four years, camp-trading is a daily walk to riches, and inflation is a password.