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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forty feared dead in KR revenge attacks

Forty feared dead in KR revenge attacks

K OH KONG - More than 40 villagers have reportedly been killed in this southern

province during May in a Khmer Rouge campaign against people they suspect of

being spies, authorities say.

Koh Kong police chief Yem Peung said he had

also received reports a number of other people missing, feared dead. No bodies

have been recovered.

He said the KR appeared to be taking revenge for

government attacks on their camps, and for the theft of some of their

weapons.

On May 14, families in one village were told that six of their

relatives had been killed in a forest near Kompong Sila commune, Thmar Baing

district, about 70km east of Koh Kong town.

The families held funerals

despite the bodies of the six not having being found.

"I don't think we

can get the bodies or the Khmer Rouge will kill us," cried Hong Mean, whose son

was one of those reported dead.

A witness to the killings, Peung Sara,

told the Post he had seen the bodies of the six.

Sara said he had been

with a group of 48 people, from four different villages, looking for valuable

wood to cut in deep forest on May 12.

A group of about 37 KR had arrived

looking for villagers to kill, he said. But some of the villagers were carrying

guns, so the KR did not attack them.

"They said: 'You are lucky. [But]

you should go back and not return any more if you love your lives and your

families."

The KR soldiers moved on, he said, but came across a smaller

group of villagers a short distance away.

"After they passed my camp, I

heard the shots. I thought they were shooting wild animals.

"But when I

reached where they were, I saw six people had had their hands tied behind their

backs and had been shot. I had known these people very well."

Yem Peung,

the police chief, said the case was just one such report of murders he had

received.

He said the KR was apparently angry at groups of villagers, who

previously supplied rice, fish and medicine to them, but who were no longer

considered loyal.

The guerrillas were angry that some of their camps had

been attacked by government forces, and believed that villagers had informed on

their movements to the authorities.

The KR also claimed some of their

weapons had been stolen, and that some villagers doing business with the KR had

cheated on their deals.

He said the KR claimed 70 guns and some

ammunition were stolen from one of their camps near Kompong Sila, where the six

people were reported to have been killed.

Peung indicated the KR's

suspicions of villagers were correct, saying that some people "were trying to

collect guns as the Khmer Rouge became weaker".

He said no guns taken

from the KR had been handed over to the authorities, and he did not know whether

villagers were using them for their own security or other purposes.

He

also admitted officials had sent spies among the villagers to gather information

on the KR, but he would not comment further.

He said local authorities

had warned people not to venture into isolated tracts of forest unless the

area's security was confirmed, but some continued to go in search of wood to

cut.

Hong Mean said her son, reported killed at Kompong Sila, had gone

into the forest two weeks earlier after paying $220 to local officials for

permission to cut wood.

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