"This is the first time in two years that I've been here for 48 hours without hearing a shot fired," a recent visitor to this town on the Thai-Cambodian border said.

The border is quiet these days. Gone is the huge, floating mass of more than half a million people driven by fear and hunger that streamed to the border by foot and oxcart a year ago.

Like a receding tide, they have faded away into the interior, now that Cambodia is once again able to feed itself and there is little or no shooting. Besides, the rice handouts at the border came to a stop.

Gone, too, is the horde of reporters and television camera crews that patrolled the border like a police beat, looking for the dramatic or the unusual. Today, weeks go by without a single reporter being seen at the border.

Whole divisions of intrepid Thai black marketeers, many of whom made a fortune trading with the not-so-poor Cambodians, have vanished from the scene.

Also gone is the small army of volunteer workers, sometimes unflatteringly referred to as "refugee groupies," that came to work in the camps for two of three months and then moved on.

They came from all over -- from the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and even Finland -- because, as they told each other solemnly over beer, this was where the action was.

There was never all that much action. And the only shooting was mainly between rival gangs competing for control of the refugee camps and the lucrative black-market trade in rice and medical supplies. But it was better than no action at all.

They wore outlandish clothes and funny hats. Some were serious and dedicated, and some of those are still around. Some were on ego trips. Some had personal problems that, so long as they had to work hard, were subordinate to the demands of caring for starving people.

But once the emergency was over, according to one refugee official, the problems surfaced, and "they were screwed up in the head again."

"Some are trekking in the Himalayas in search of themselves or something," he said, "while a good many others have drifted on to Pakistan or Afghanistan to become war groupies."

The tide left its residue. There are still nearly 300,000 Cambodians in camps straddling the border or in holding centers inside Thailand. Presumably, all but a few will some day return to Cambodia.

The "land bridge" from Thailand that helped save thousands of Cambodians from starvation was suspended last month on the ground that it was no longer necessary. Simlarly, relief shipments to the Hanoi-backed Phnom Penh government were also stopped.

The United Nations Children's Fund and the Royal Thai Army, supplied with rice by the World Food Program, continue to feed approximately 146,000 Cambodians. About 76,000 of them belong to the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, who continue to harass Vietnamese troops along the border.

The United Nations Refugee Agency provides food and care for another 137,248 Cambodians in holding centers inside Thailand. They are not refugees, but are classified by the Thais as illegal entrants or -- more recently and accurately -- as displaced persons.

About 9,000 people have been resettled in third countries, mostly the United States, but the rest are expected to return to Cambodia eventually.

Khao I Dang, the sprawling holding center eight miles from the border, once housed 130,000 Cambodians. Today, with many of the camp's residents transferred to other centers, the camp population is down to about 57,000.

Camp officials were recently alarmed by what appeared to be an extraordinary baby boom in Khao I Dang. Then they discovered that for six months there had been a double count of babies born -- one at the hospital and the other in the neighborhood block associations.

"The two figures were being lumped together," said John Moore, 34, a genial, straightforward Canadian who runs the camp for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

There were 249 births in December and 180 in January. Moore said he did not think that that figure amounted to a baby boom, considering the youth of the population and "the fact that people here don't have much else to do."

One-half the camp population is under 17, and more than 9,000 of these are under 5, he said. There are 20,000 students in school, including adults.

"These people don't take readily to family planning," Moore said. Only 1,903 people out of 57,000 are using some form of contraceptive, he added.

Moore said there had never been a survey taken to determine what the Cambodians in Khao I Dang would like to do with themselves, and, he adds, it would be a mistake to lead them to believe that they can expect resettlement in a third country.

"Probably the greatest contribution we can make to them while they're here is to help them be useful citizens," he said. Children are being taught to read and write their own language and many adults also want to be literate.