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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Final deal with Khmer Rouge stuck on Mok

Final deal with Khmer Rouge stuck on Mok

NEGOTIATIONS with the remaining hard-line Khmer Rouge guerrillas have been underway

for several months, but the major sticking point in any final agreement to end almost

20 years of fighting is the fate of the rebels' leader, the one-legged Ta Mok.

The government, for its part, says that there could be no amnesty for Ta Mok who

has been accused of crimes against humanity during 1975-78 when the Khmer Rouge were

in power.

"People know about Ta Mok. He's an evil man, he killed a lot of people during

the Khmer Rouge time and after 1978," said Gen Neang Phat, director of the Ministry

of Defense's Department of Information.

"We cannot excuse him. There is only one way and that is to send him to court,"

Phat added.

The remaining hardline rebels have expressed a willingness to give up the fight and

cut a deal similar to that done with Ieng Sary in Pailin, but are fearful of retribution

against their senior leaders.

"If people keep talking about Ta Mok, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, then Ta has

no choice but to continue using the military option," a senior Khmer Rouge official

told the Post. "Everyone wants to follow the political option, the national

reconciliation option."

However, from the government's perspective Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan may be off

the hook.

"We're thinking about Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea," said Phat. "This

amnesty will be a process. If anyone can arrest Ta Mok it will effect the decision

about them. As Hun Sen mentioned in the past about Khieu Samphan, if he can arrest

Ta Mok the government will review the question on Khieu Samphan."

Estimates of the guerrillas remaining troop strength, who are strung out in remote

jungle areas along the Cambodian-Thai border, vary widely.

"We can field around 2,000 soldiers and have 40,000 civilians in our areas,"

said the Khmer Rouge official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"No way," says Gen Phat. "They have at most 200 soldiers left."

A western military analyst estimated that the remaining KR included anywhere from

500 to 1,000 fighters, but noted that it was difficult to know or sure.

"One day this guy is a soldier in the jungle and the next he's in the refugee

camp taking care of his family," the analyst said, referring to the camp on

Thai territory north of Anlong Veng which houses an estimated 15,000 refugees who

fled the fighting when the government captured the former guerrilla headquarters

last March.

Whatever the exact numbers, Ta Mok and his followers are in a situation more desparate

than anything experienced in the last three decades. Having lost their support base

of Anlong Veng, they must fend for themselves in rugged, malaria-infested jungle

terrain that offers little.

"We do not have enough medicine and food," said the Khmer Rouge official.

"The morale of our soldiers is low."

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