S ISOPHON - Senior Khmer Rouge defectors are going to be settled on prime hillside
real estate in the middle of Banteay Meanchey's provincial capital.
Provincial authorities have sold land in the center of town to private owners to
raise money for a new Governor's office that looks like Phnom Penh's Cambodiana Hotel,
a provincial police station and a beautifully designed central market.
Eight wooden houses overlooking the town are almost finished and are part of the
government's push to entice rebel defections.
"Three-stripe Khmer Rouge commanders will be housed here as part of the government's
policy to encourage Khmer Rouge to join the government," said Nhek Kim Chhun,
a supervisor at the building site.
"These eight houses will be used for senior ex-Khmer Rouge and we hope RCAF
soldiers can also build houses further up the hill in the future," said Kim
Chhun, brother of General Nhek Bun Chhay, the RCAF deputy chief of general staff.
Defense Ministry statistics claim 440 KR troops and militia defected between Jan
94 and Aug 95 in Banteay Meanchey, with officials claiming another 148 in October,
though these could not be confirmed independently.
Military officials here said a special "ex-KR" battalion would be formed
and commanders to live in the hillside houses would be chosen from among 176 defectors.
In November co-Defense Minister General Tea Chamrith welcomed the settling of the
high-ranking defectors. Chamrith said that "relatives on both sides" had
been used to encourage defections.
"Before Funcinpec and KP soldiers were fighting alongside the KR like brothers
and we are now lobbying and using our influence to encourage others to defect,"
Some RCAF military in Sisophon said a few of the RCAF soldiers were "jealous
about the new houses being built on the hill for ex-Khmer Rouge" but said they
hoped more houses for RCAF could be built.
"We have struggled and fought against the Khmer Rouge for a long time but never
got a building like that," one soldier said.
Kim Chhun said he expected the houses to be finished within a month and then he would
move to other "development and construction projects" in the province.