One of the biggest Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand, Kao I Dang, which gave shelter to tens of thousands of Cambodian refugees in the 1980s, has reopened as an educational center to highlight the response to the regional refugee crisis.
“Khao I Dang offers a poignant reminder of Thai hospitality and responsibility-sharing by the international community at the height of the Indochinese refugee crisis,” said James Lynch, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for South-East Asia.
Inaugurated on Monday, the Learning Centre for the History of Khao I Dang uses photographs, videos and text to pay tribute to an important waypoint in the Cambodian exodus and an enduring symbol of the international humanitarian response to the crisis.
Nop Bun Than from North Carolina, a former Khao I Dang resident before resettling in the U.S. in 1982, said it was a good idea.
“It is a good move if the camp opens with the support of the UN to teach the world because the management of the UN at that time was so good. There was food, water, people had freedom in the camp although there was no freedom,” he said, adding that he would like to return to see what had been done with the camp.
“I would think that I would have much emotion and shock if I am going and seeing the camp again.”
Nhek Bun Chhay who was a resistance fighter along the border and is currently the president of Khmer National United Party, said that there would be a lot of things to learn from, both good and bad.
“The good thing is that they will show about the hardship and ordeal of the refugees to prevent it from happening in other countries, because it was not easy to live in the camp. That’s the negative point. The positive point, just like I said, is that it will be there for tourists and development.”
Thailand’s Forestry Department will manage the site, along with the Red Cross and UNHCR.