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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Election attack exposes woes of dying movement

Election attack exposes woes of dying movement

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TA MOK'S CALLING CARD

A government soldier and two KR defectors move a casualty away

from O'Kung Binh village.

SIEM REAP - The Khmer Rouge managed only a couple of cameo appearances for Sunday's

election.

But like so many of their previous actions they managed to combine farce, duplicity

and brutality.

Ta Mok sent two groups of soldiers to disrupt the elections in the northern provinces

of Anlong Veng and Stung Treng.

One group threatened and then attacked O'Kung Binh village near Anlong Veng. At least

11 people were killed in the attack: seven civilians, two RCAF soldiers and two KR

attackers. Other KR casualties were carried off by their comrades.

The other group threatened, but did not launch, a direct attack in Stung Treng.

According to Region 4 military chief Chea Maon, the Anlong Veng group had planned

on inflicting greater damage, but more than 20 of them defected to the government

as soon as they crossed the border from Thailand, where they are stationed. General

Maon said the defectors told him as much as they knew of the plan to disrupt the

elections, however they did not know where the attack would be made.

Maon said that Ta Mok wanted to disrupt the elections but was constrained in what

he could order his troops to do because he was scared they would run off.

"It's hard for Ta Mok now to send his forces out to attack us because he thinks

they will defect to the government," Maon said.

"If he sends 10, all 10 will defect and if he sends 20, then all 20 will defect.

The more he sends the more they defect."

Maon dismissed the attack as minor and a publicity stunt.

"That was a small scratch only," he said. "They tried to create an

explosion that would tell the world they are still strong, but they are very close

to their final breath."

The rebel's impact on the election was a long way from its efforts in 1993 when it

caused major disruptions after turning its back on the Paris Peace Accord.

At the time, an UNTAC report into violence during 10 weeks of the election period

blamed 131 deaths and more than 50 abductions on the Khmer Rouge.

While Sunday's attack may have been militarily insignificant compared to five years

ago - for the victims it was devastating.

The youngest to suffer was a baby boy less than 6 months old. The malnourished infant

owes his survival to chance and a fellow victim's persistence.

He was found in a trench with three dead civilians, believed to be his family. Villagers

had not expected to find anyone alive among the bodies. A woman from the village

took the baby with her on the RCAF helicopter which had been sent to collect the

injured.

A western journalist on the flight said the woman kept asking various soldiers on

the flight to look after the baby. Eventually, it was agreed he would be taken to

headquarters and cared for there until a relative was located. As soon as he was

brought off the helicopter, staff and drink sellers at Siem Reap military airport

procured a baby bottle and some milk and were queuing up to feed and hold the boy.

His immediate care seemed assured, but military staff said they had no idea what

would happen to the child if a relative could not be found.

Other survivors are in a scarcely better position. Most of them lost all their possessions

to the Khmer Rouge. In one case, a man said he was left with only the underpants

he was wearing.

The survivors said they were aware that the rebels were planning an attack in the

area, but the timing and target were a surprise.

Sat Chiet, 25, was a soldier based at the village. He said as voting day neared the

KR sent a message to the village warning people not to vote.

He said early on Sunday morning, while people were still sleeping, the KR arrived

and opened fire with B-40 rockets and rifles.

"While they were firing on the village they shouted: 'If they are puppet soldiers,

kill them. Kill them all'," Chiet said.

When they heard this, Chiet and his wife got out of bed and ran downstairs with their

1-year-old daughter.

As they were fleeing, Chiet's wife was shot in the hand. She managed to hide with

their baby in a hole in the ground. When she was found, she begged for mercy and

was spared after showing the attackers her wound.

Chiet said the KR looted the village as they searched for government soldiers. They

took rice and other food as well as money and goods.

The KR were suspicious of the men in the village and started to ask individuals if

they fought for the government.

"Are there any [government] soldiers here?," one of the KR soldiers was

reported to have shouted. The villagers answered: "No."

Chiet said he was one of the men questioned. He only escaped execution because he

was in civilian clothes and told the KR: "I am not a soldier. I am a civilian."

The KR then commanded him to follow other villagers whom they had ordered to go into

the jungle with them.

Chiet said he then saw a lot of villagers running across the rice field towards the

polling station in Anlong Veng, about 2 km away. The KR did not realize the villagers

were making their escape. Chiet asked the KR if he could follow the villagers and

was told he could.

Chiet's wife, Phy, said that while she was lying in the hole she heard the KR setting

fire to houses in the village.

"An old woman said: 'If you burn my house, how can I have a house to live when

I come back?'" Phy said.

Phy said that she then heard a KR soldier say: "Don't worry, Ta Mok will be

back and he will cut wood to build a wooden house for you."

Senior officers within RCAF have said that it is unlikely that Ta Mok will ever have

enough power to regain control of Anlong Veng, but Chim Sitha, a soldier based on

Mountain 400 who was evacuated because he contracted malaria, claimed Ta Mok had

thousands of troops.

He said about 10,000 refugees are living in a place he called "O'Khav Daon Camp"

in Thailand.

He said he knew because he and another soldier had been sent close to the camp to

investigate where Ta Mok was.

And he claimed that the KR were now trying to gain a foot-hold in Cambodian territory.

"The area that we control contracts day-by-day, because the Khmer Rouge lay

new mines," Sitha said.

Meanwhile, two other groups of KR soldiers turned up at polling stations in Stung

Treng, but only one group appeared to want to disrupt the voting.

Stung Treng provincial police chief Chan Kimseng said a group of five KR soldiers,

who were all wearing uniforms but were unarmed, tried to get inside the polling station

at Kang Cham village.

He said they were stopped by a security guard at the station who explained to them

that they could not enter because it was prohibited under the election law.

They then left peacefully, but said they would return. Kimseng said this frightened

the staff in the polling station who then sent for soldiers and police to protect

them. However, the KR never returned.

At the same time, another group of KR soldiers carrying guns tried to enter the polling

station at Kiri Vongsar village.

However, it seems unlikely they had been directed there by Ta Mok. Kimseng said that

the soldiers were surprised to hear an election was under way and only turned up

because they saw the crowd around the polling station.

They asked if they could go in and see the procedure for voting but the polling station

officials refused. They then left without argument, Kimseng said.

"Those Khmer Rouge looked so polite and they did not create any problems at

the polling stations," the chief of police said.

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