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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP gains some ground in competition for defectors

CPP gains some ground in competition for defectors

T HE defection of Ny Korn - the highest ranking Khmer Rouge commander to join the

government so far - could help negotiations with remaining hard-liners in Anlong

Veng, according to Western observers.

The defection of Ny Korn - brother of top hard-liner Son Sen - could also reestablish

the balance within the coalition, who have been locked in a struggle to attract recent

defectors to their respective camps, a western military attache said.

Observers note that most earlier KR defections have been brokered by Funcinpec and

that the two groups were allies in the anti-Phnom Penh resistance of the 1980's.

Korn, along with Son Chhum - also a brother of Son Sen - and Ta Muth, son-in-law

of the notorious KR general Ta Mok, joined the government Dec 18 during a ceremony

with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen at Phnom Dei on the Thai border.

Defecting as individuals - most of their troops from fronts 250 and 909 had already

joined the RCAF in early November - they were flown to Phnom Penh when the ceremony

finished.

The military attache said there were probably fewer than 2,000 KR hard-liners remaining

in Anlong Veng, their last stronghold.

He said Ny Korn was in a good position to negotiate, considering his family links

with Son Sen, but confirmed Son Sen's whereabouts were still unclear.

A second Western observer said negotiations had started with hard-liners in Anlong

Veng and that General Nhek Bun Chhay, Funcinpec's RCAF deputy chief of staff, was

in the forefront of those talks.

"I cannot say how far those negotiations have gone because there are still some

skirmishes in the north of Siem Reap," he said.

"But," he added, "with Son Sen's brother on their side, the CPP may

be [well placed] to attract the [remaining] Khmer Rouge hard-liners."

According to the source, the fact that Ny Korn "surrendered" to Hun Sen

was a strong sign of the links the second PM had established with the senior KR commander.

The whereabouts of Ny Korn remained unclear for more than two months, though he was

reported to have escaped to Thailand with Ta Muth and Nuon Chea after former KR troops

took control of Samlot.

But in an Oct 22 interview with the Post, Ieng Sary said that the Democratic National

United Movement (DNUM) were detaining Ny Korn and Ta Muth in Pailin.

During the Dec 18 defection ceremony, Ny Korn said he escaped from Pailin three days

previously.

Him Puth - a commander of Front 250 who hosted the Phnom Dei ceremony - told Reuters

Ta Muth and Son Chhum had come from Koh Kong.

"Ny Korn was not inside the DNUM movement. He was in Pailin, but not yet on

the government side," the attache said.

He said Ny Korn's sudden emergence could be the result of a compromise with Ee Chhean.

Ee Chhean, commander of the former Khmer Rouge division 415 and deputy president

of the DNUM, is reportedly more closely linked to Funcinpec than to the CPP.

"Maybe [the] CPP asked him for some guarantee of his good will," the attache

speculated.

Since the emergence of the KR split, CPP and Funcinpec have been competing to gain

the loyalty of former KR forces. Observers have noted that until recently, Funcinpec

had appeared more successful.

Divisions 415 and 450 of Pailin and Malai respectively are said to be loyal to Funcinpec.

Front 250 - in Phnom Dei between Malai and Pailin, and south of Pailin around Samlot

- has, according to informed sources, negotiated directly with the CPP.

"I do not know how the CPP has achieved it, but it seems to me that they have

gained more KR [troops] than Funcinpec has," the attache said.

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