Thailand/Cambodia: Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement assists thousands following border clashes

14-02-2011 Interview

Armed clashes between Thailand and Cambodia displaced some 30,000 people in the two countries between 4 and 8 February. There were several casualties and the Cambodian authorities detained a Thai soldier for a number of days.

The ICRC, the Thai Red Cross Society and the Cambodian Red Cross took steps to alleviate the human consequences of these clashes. Jacques Stroun, the Head of the Regional Delegation in Bangkok, look back at their efforts and achievements.

What did the ICRC do during this period?

We worked closely with the Thai Red Cross Society, the Cambodian Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The main focus was on displaced persons, who lacked many basic necessities. The National Societies distributed food, tarpaulins, blankets, clothes, mosquito nets, bottled water and buckets. They also took the lead in helping the authorities of their respective countries look after these displaced persons.

The ICRC sent health personnel and water engineers to both countries, to help conduct a thorough assessment of the health and hygiene situation.

What is the ICRC’s role when fighting breaks out between two countries?

As the guardian of international humanitarian law (IHL), the ICRC is mandated by the nations of the world to assist and protect people affected by conflict. As a neutral organization, we can talk to all sides, and help find solutions to the humanitarian problems that arise from conflict.

On 8 February, the ICRC met a Thai soldier captured during the fighting, and our representatives were present when he was released in Phnom Penh.

Were you in contact with the Cambodian and the Thai authorities during the fighting?

We raised our concerns regarding the humanitarian situation with the governments of both countries. One of our priorities was for both countries to conduct their military operations in conformity with IHL.


What does IHL say?

  • Parties to a conflict must always distinguish between civilians and combatants, in order to prevent suffering among the civilian population and damage to civilian property.
  • Parties must restrict their attacks to military objectives – attacks on the civilian population or individual civilians are prohibited.
  • People who are not actually taking part in hostilities must not be killed, and their physical and mental well-being must be preserved.
  • People who are not actually taking part in hostilities have a right to protection and to humane treatment under all circumstances, without any adverse distinction.
  • It is illegal to kill or wound an enemy who has surrendered or who can no longer take part in the fighting.


Jacques Stroun 


Displaced people receiving assistance. 

Displaced people receiving assistance.
© REUTERS / Sukree Sukplang

Displaced people seeking refugee in temporary shelters 

Displaced people seeking refugee in temporary shelters
© REUTERS / Damir Sagolj