BANGKOK -A special Thai unit set up to work with Cambodian guerrilla factions in
the 1980s still operates in the border jungles and played a major role in
forcibly repatriating refugees to Cambodia last week, Thai military sources
The elite "Unit 838" was assigned to coordinate and supervise
Cambodian guerrilla forces in their 13-year civil war against the
The unit was to have disbanded after the
four factions in the civil war signed a peace pact in late 1991.
several Thai military rangers deployed in eastern Chantaburi province said last
week the unit was still operating and that its main purpose now was to
coordinate with the KR.
"When senior Khmer Rouge officials travel via
our checkpoint, 838 will inform us ahead of time," said one of the rangers, a
member of a special force deployed to deal with trouble along Thailand's
extensive borders with Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
Bangkok has denied links
with the KR, saying it ceased support after the pact was signed.
spokesman Colonel Palangkoon Kraharn said he was unaware of the existence of the
838 Unit. "The army has assigned regular units to deal with security problems on
the border," he said.
The rangers said the 838 had played a big role in
last week's forcible repatriation of 25,000 people, mostly KR families fleeing a
government offensive on their stronghold at Pailin.
"The 838 Unit was the
one that coordinated with regular forces to bring the Cambodian refugees into
Sabtali [an area straddling the Thai-Cambodian border]," the rangers told
Reuters during a recent visit to the border.
Thai Rear Admiral Trirat
Chamanan told reporters last week that the marine task force based on the border
had sent the refugees back on a superior's order.
The rangers said that
at least 14 task forces of Unit 838 - each with between 10 and 15 men - were
still deployed on the border. - Reuters