Former Khmer Rouge military commander Chhouk Rin has been arrested and charged in
connection with the killing of 16 people following an attack on a train near Kampot
Three of those killed were foreigners - Briton Mark Slater, 26, Frenchman Jean-Michel
Braquet, 27, and Australian David Wilson, 29.
The arrest came almost five years to the day after Rin and his troops became the
first group of KR soldiers to be integrated into the army.
Rin led the attack on the train and passed the foreigners on to his commanders. They
were held on Phnom Vour mountain and killed after attempts to secure their release
via a ransom payment and later military action failed.
Rin's then commander Nuon Paet is already serving a life sentence for the killings.
Rin spoke to the Post a short time before his arrest on the condition nothing was
published until he had been charged.
He said that he would not fight attempts to arrest him and he had confidence that
he would be vindicated in a trial.
"I was ordered to attack the train but I did not kill the foreigners,"
His defense is that he was involved in a war and that if he had not obeyed orders
he would have been killed.
However when he spoke to the Post he appeared confident that he would not be put
on trial and said that RCAF chief Ke Kim Yan would protect him.
He said he also believed that when he defected to the Government with his troops
in late 1994 that he had been given an amnesty and that he could not be put on trial
for his actions during the war.
Rin is an enigmatic figure. On the one hand he has quite freely admitted to have
being an effective soldier unsure how many people he might have killed during the
fighting but on the other hand he has shown a degree of concern and compassion for
his troops and their families not often seen among other former KR officers.
His people now live in Chamcar Bei near Kampot in the shadow of Phnom Vour. The area
was allotted to him by the Government for he and his troops. They have cleared the
land, established farms and schools and settled down to a quiet life. He has generally
avoided the trappings of wealth that his position would have allowed him to accumulate.
Of the land in the area that he sold, most of the money has been put into building
roads within the community - 36 kilometers worth at the last count.
However international pressure from the countries of the three foreigners taken in
the train attack has ensured he is held accountable for what happened in 1994.
Another of his commanders Sam Bit, now an RCAF general also looks likely to face
trial despite comments by Hun Sen to the three ambassadors before Christmas that
he would not be arrested.
Co-Defence Minister Tea Banh said that there were no objections to arresting Bit
but the investigation was not complete.
"Even though, the investigation on [Sam Bith] must proceed we must be very careful
before arresting him."
Tea Banh pointed out that Sam Bith had served the country for the national reconciliation
and peace like other former Khmer Rouge leaders.
Bit was involved in the negotiations for the defection of Anlong Veng and Samlot
however Banh made not comment regarding Chhouk Rin's role as the first commander
to take the risk and defect.
It is not certain what will happen next to Rin and Bit.
So far Rin appears resigned to his fate
Sao Sokha, head of the Military Police, who went down to Kampot to arrest Rin said
the arrest warrant was presented to Rin and Rin agreed to go to Phnom Penh.
"His face changed quickly and he looked downcast when we presented him the arrest
warrant but he said he respected the law of the country," Sokha said.
Rin was kept at the headquarters of the military police in Phnom Penh one night.
Rin said he was questioned by a Phnom Penh judge and his money was taken before being
sent to T3 prison.
The judge had also taken his eyes glasses but gave them back when he insisted he
could not see.
Police at T3 said Rin was unhappy that his money had been taken and he had no means
of obtaining food.
Land said to belong to him in Kampot - allegedly obtained through corrupt dealings
with CMAC's Demining Unit 3 (DU3) - is slated for an imminent ownership review and
CMAC's Governing Council Chairman Ieng Mouly informed the Post that a review of usage
of CMAC-demined land will begin next month in Kampot.
"As we have promised [CMAC] donors, we will review land usage of demined-areas,"
Mouly explained. "We will start the review in Kampot Province and then continue
in areas such as Battambang where usage and ownership of CMAC-demined land is contentious."
CMAC's credibility with international donors suffered irreparable harm when the Post
revealed in July 1999 that CMAC had demined land in Kampot owned by Rin, who led
a 1994 train attack that resulted in the kidnapping and murder of three backpackers
from Britain, France and Australia.
Resolution of how Rin had come into possession of the land and punishment of those
CMAC personnel responsible have been key conditions of a resumption of full donor
funding for CMAC, particularly among the Australians and the British.
Former CMAC Director General Sam Sotha was dismissed in August 1999 due to donor
displeasure over the Kampot scandal, while three members of DU3's management were
fired for their role in the affair.
An investigation into the Kampot scandal by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
and Inspection was completed last month, with preliminary results prompting CMAC
Director General Khem Sophoan to tell the Post that DU3 personnel had been proven
to have been "even guiltier than originally suspected."
When contacted by the Post on Jan 19, Secretary General of the Ministry of Parliamentary
Affairs and Inspection, Khau Menghean, confirmed the investigation had been completed
but that release of the results hinged on Prime Minister Hun Sen's reaction to the
However Canadian Ambassador Normand Mailhot expressed doubt whether the report's
release would provoke legal action against former DU3 officials.
"Criminal prosecutions [as a result of the Kampot investigation] are possible
but unlikely," he said.
The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Inspection were contracted for the Kampot
investigation in September 1999 after Global Witness declined to follow-up three
successive internal CMAC investigations that produced "conflicting results".