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Update No. 97/01 on ICRC activities in Cambodia

16-07-1997 Operational Update

 A divided country  

Once again the war-weary, destitute Cambodians have been faced with the prospect of civil war. In the 1970s Cambodia was ravaged during the years of Khmer Rouge rule. In the 1980s the ICRC, working in camps on the Thai-Cambodian border, strove to provide the Khmers with the basic means to survive. With the signing of the Paris Agreements in 1991 and the subsequent elections in 1993, it appeared that Cambodia would be able to focus on building for the future. However, political tensions in Cambodian society are too great.

On 5 July the undercurrent of tension between the democratically elected coalition government came to the fore when the forces of the two co-Premiers clashed in the capital. Hun Sen consolidated his grip on Phnom Penh and the city's environs, pushing Norodom

Ranariddh's men from their bases in the capital. Towns in the north and north-west, such as Battambang and Siem Reap, were subject to occasional shelling.

 The ICRC focuses on medical needs  

In response to the recent violence in Phnom Penh and the north-west, the ICRC's delegation in the capital has been concentrating on providing essential medical assistance. The stocks at Phnom Penh's Calmette, Kossamak and Sihanouk hospitals were nearly exhausted. The ICRC has distributed basic medical supplies to the Calmette hospital which has treated up to 100 wounded, some of whom were evacuated by ICRC vehicles. The ICRC also evacuated Cambodian and foreign civilians trapped in the Tuol Ko rk area near the airport, the scene of some of the worst fighting.

The ICRC is currently building up an emergency stock of medical supplies in the capital and in Aranyaprathet, in Thailand near the Cambodian town of Poipet.

The ICRC-supported National Blood Transfusion Centre in Phnom Penh has provided the medical facilities treating the wounded with units of blood tested for, among other things, hepatitis and the HIV virus. The delegation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, also runs 13 provincial blood transfusion centres operating in many areas in Cambodia. The ICRC is currently seeking new partners to assist the Ministry of Health to take over this project.

The ICRC's programme for the physical rehabilitation of the war-wounded has not been significantly affected by recent events. The ICRC's prosthetic/orthotic workshop in Phnom Penh continues to manufacture components which are then supplied to various non-governmental organizations working in the field of prosthetics in Cambodia. Owing to the current uncertainty no new amputees have been admitted to the Battambang centre as they prefer to remain with their families for the time being. Those who have already been fitted with artificial limbs continue to be fed and housed at the centre until they can be reunited with their next of kin.

 Detention-related activities  

On 7 July the prison in Battambang came under mortar fire and four detainees were wounded. Delegates stationed in the town, together with staff of Médecins sans frontières , organized first aid and arranged for the transfer of some of the wounded to the local military hospital. The ICRC also provided food for the detainees held in Sisophon, who had been left to fend for themselves.

On 8 July the ICRC visited detainees held in Phnom Penh's PJ, T3 and Tuol Sleng prisons. Delegates checked on the detainees'physical and material conditions of detention, talked to them in private and enabled them to maintain links with their families through the Red Cross message service. Delegates have also visited military personnel who have surrendered as a result of the recent events.

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

In a bid to prevent violations of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has a programme aimed at promoting respect for and compliance with these legal instruments. The delegation organizes seminars, lectures and presentations on the law of war for members of the Royal

Cambodian Armed Forces, members of the Democratic National Union Movement, local authorities, academics, journalists and National Society personnel. In cooperation with the Federation, the ICRC strives to strengthen the Cambodian Red Cross's dissemination unit.


Sixteen expatriates, including a representative of the Japanese Red Cross Society, and 150 Cambodian personnel work in the ICRC's delegation in the capital and its sub-delegation in Battambang. On 6 July part of the staff not involved in operational activities was transferred to Thailand.