Teav Sy Ing, 27, says the Khmer Rouge slit his throat and buried him alive in a mass grave in Western Cambodia. But he dug himself out, he says, and made his way to the Thai border, where today he is displayed to visitors curious about Thailand's tidal wave of refugees - ethnic Chinese from Cambodia.

In less than a week, 12,000 Chinese have walked into Thailand from Cambodia. They say thousands more are on the way, and that none will go back.

Teav has become almost a symbol of this irrepressible overseas Chinese community that escaped from Pol Pot's Cambodia and has returned to life in its native element, the market capitalism that thrives among Thailand's Chinese dominated border towns.

These new refugees have been greeted by the Chinese Association of Aranyaprathet with donations of food, clothing and plastic sheets that made the compound of Wat Koh almost bearable. Stalls have quickly sprung up along the barbed wire where the refugees and townsfolk haggles over the price of gold and blue jeans.

But despite the bustle, Thai officials are deeply troubled. The army suspects - and the refugees have no doubt - that the Chinese evacuation has been encouraged by the Vietnamese to empty Cambodia of what Hanoi would view as Peking's potential fifth column. It is unknown how many ethnic Chinese survived Pol Pot's purges. The Thai fear, however, that Hanoi has now opened their way to Thailand.

Once the new Heng Samrin goverment installed by Vietnam spread its influence to Western Cambodia in March, uprooted Cambodians were told to return to their homes. For the Chinese this meant back to the deserted towns, a move made practical when the Vietnamese allowed the Chinese to exchange gold for rice openly at a rate six to 10 times better than the illicit trade under the Khmer Rouge. Refugees estimate that well over 20,000 mostly ethnic Chinese gathered in the Western provincial capital of Battambang early in March.

Now the largely successful Vietnamese premonsoon offensive has opened a safe passage for the ethnic Chinese to walk to Thailand, six days west by foot down Highway 5 to Aranyaprathet. Contact points have been arranged along the way where the Chinese can trade rice for gold. The 12,000 that have arrived, refugees say, are just the beginning of the long column.

The Chinese say that Heng Samrin's Cambodians abused them as badly as Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

"They're all the same. The Cambodians hated us Chinese and Heng Samrin's soldiers beat us and stole our rice and gold," said a 59-year-old Thai-speaking Chinese woman from Cambodia.

All agreed the Vietnamese were friendly.

"But we weren't fooled. They were friendly as long as we were leaving Cambodia," she said.

The educated, organized and well connected Cambodian Chinese already have opposed the Thai policy of returning Cambodians back across the border by every means short of using the gun.

"We won't go back. They'll have to shoot us here first," one refugee said expressing almost universal sentiment among the Chinese community.

But Thai officials privately warn that if they cannot return the Chinese Cambodians,"we'll have to accept all the Cambodians. They'll swamp the boat once the famine starts next August."

The new refugees also are likely to throw an unexpected twist into the already tangled diplomacy of the Cambodian war, embarrassing Peking. The refugees recently sent a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok saying the Vietnamese backed government "used the same anti-Chinese policy which the Vietnamese used against the few overseas Chinese left in Cambodia."

This may provide fresh fuel for Peking's propaganda war against Hanoi. But the Thais are likely to expect some concrete help from China resettling these refugees, particularly when the Western world appears unwilling to respond to the latest Indochina refugee crisis.