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Schools Reopening After Border Violence

More than 100 schools along the border in three provinces reopened Monday, following closures in the wake of military clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers last week.

More than 150 schools in Bantheay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear provinces were closed last week, after an hour of gun battles near Preah Vihear temple led to the deaths of at least three Cambodians and fueled worries of widespread violence.

Bleng Saruth, director of Banteay Meanchey’s education department, said Monday all of the 89 schools in Malay and O’Chrouv districts, which had been closed last week, were reopened.

“Since the 20th [of October] until now, the schools are 100 percent open, because people are no longer afraid,” he said. “They are coming back home. They were afraid on the 16th and 17th, but now all the schools have been opened.”

Many people living near the site of Wednesday’s fighting, including teachers, fled last week, leaving the border regions for urban centers in the interior. With no further clashes reported, and with Thai and Cambodian military commanders expected to meet in Siem Reap Thursday, many people are now returning, and sending their children back to school.

Around 50 schools in Oddar Meanchey and Preah Vihear, near the Preah Vihear temple, have remained closed, as well as other schools scattered through the three border provinces.

Among 20 schools in Chom Ksan district and the surrounding area, 16 have been opened, said Horn Chhorn, director of Preah Vihear’s education department.

“About 70 percent of the students have come back to school, while the remaining four [schools] cannot be reopened until today because some parents fear that their children will be injured,” he said.

In Oddar Meanchey, 21 out of 23 schools in four districts remained closed Monday, said Ing Borath, director of the province’s education department. He urged parents to send their children back to school.

“In fact, in the remaining 21 schools still closed, there are very few students coming in, so the teachers just let them go back home, because the number is too small,” he said.

He hoped more students would return later this week, he said.