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