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