During the latter part of 1979, hundreds of thousands Kampuchean refugees fled from all parts of their war- and hunger-ridden country to the Thai-Cambodian border, thousands perishing from hunger, disease and stepping on mine fields on the way. The majority of those who survived settled in several large villages straddling the border in relative security from the advancing Vietnamese army, receiving food and medical supplies from many international welfare organizations.
Widespread public interest in the plight of these refugees arose in Israel after a television program late in October 1979, and a public campaign initiated by Mr. Abie Nathan, an Israeli citizen. The ensuing fund-raising efforts resulted in 1.2 million dollars, most of which originated from private donations. These contributions enabled the Israeli government to equip 5 medical teams and send them to Thailand, covering the last two months of 1979 and the first 4 months of 1980.