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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government plays down KR threat

Government plays down KR threat

Solving the Khmer Rouge problem is not a high priority for the new government according

to the recently appointed Defense Secretary.

Ek Sereywath said alleviating poverty in rural areas followed by insuring general

security was more important.

But in an interview with The Post on Nov. 2 he spoke at length about the government's

efforts in combating the Khmer Rouge.

"His Majesty the King and Prince Ranariddh feel we should use all means to get

them back in the community," he said. "We will try our best to solve the

problem through dialogue and negotiations."

The former Deputy Information Minister said 30 to 40 Khmer Rouge soldiers were turning

their weapons into the government every day.

Nationwide more than 2,800 KR soldiers have defected to the government.

The government currently has five camps for re-educating Khmer Rouge defectors: two

in the Phnom Penh area at Dei Eth and Russey Keo and one each in Siem Reap, Sisophon

and Kompong Thom.

Although soldiers are leaving the Khmer Rouge in droves the future role of the guerilla

leadership is still contentious.

"For leaders we are ready to give them an advisory role but they wouldn't be

members of the government and they wouldn't be given any executive power," said

Sereywath.

He believes the Khmer Rouge are in a weak position with low morale among the rank

and file and serious divisions in the Khmer Rouge leadership.

"Some [Khmer Rouge leaders] want to join the new government and some want to

continue to struggle," he said.

"They believe there will be disunity in the new government. They dream that

this government will not perform very well, that it will be corrupt.

"They dream that we will not solve government bickering so that people will

join them."

Sereywath confirmed reports that Khmer Rouge leaders including Ta Mok, Nuon Chea

and Ieng Sary had recently visited front line guerrilla commanders to discuss plans

for a dry season offensive.

However, he said the government was prepared to deal with any Khmer Rouge military

activity.

Turning to government appointments, Sereywath said the new provincial governor for

Phnom Penh would be Chim Siek Leng, a FUNCINPEC member and former administrator of

Site B.

Both Battambang and Siem Reap would also go to FUNCINPEC party members although he

declined to give names.

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