K EP, Kampot - Former Khmer Rouge Colonel Chhouk Rin has gone into hiding after a
fellow senior rebel defector was gunned down by a KR hit squad in his hammock in
Colonel So Suvan (aka Yang Vorn) was murdered - along with
another KR defector and two high-ranking Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF)
officers - in apparent revenge for his defection.
The killings have been
blamed on five other defectors - given jobs in the RCAF - acting on the orders
of notorious KR General Nuon Paet.
Rin is said to be forming a personal
bodyguard unit of 37 soldiers to protect himself.
"He always moves from
place to place to stop people tracking him," said his deputy, Captain Srey Sam,
Rin and Vorn (So Suvan) led hundreds of guerrillas to
surrender from their Phnom Vour (Vine Mountain) KR base last October.
The defections allowed the base to fall to RCAF troops who had besieged
it after the kidnapping, and later murders, of three foreign tourists in
Paet - the subject of an arrest warrant for the foreigners' murders
- escaped and is now believed to be in Koh Sla, about 40km from Kampot
Both Vorn and Rin - who is best known for leading the train ambush
which kidnapped the tourists - were recruited into the RCAF as Lieutenant
Colonels following their defections.
Vorn, previously Paet's deputy, was
in charge of guarding the KR general's former camp at Khnach Prey Village on
RCAF Colonel Miech Man, deputy commander of military
operations in the area, told the Post Vorn was killed on the night of April 23
while sleeping in a hammock.
About 12:30am, a group of five KR defectors
crept up to Vorn's camp to shoot him and three others.
"They came very
close to the hammocks and shot Col Vorn many times in the body," said Col Man.
"The four all died in their hammocks."
The others were Vorn's bodyguard,
Rom, also a defector, and two RCAF officers - Lt Col Suon Kou, Deputy Chief of
Staff of military operations for the Kep/Bokor region and Lt Col Ith Sarim,
deputy chief of the local training center for KR defectors.
Col Man named
the murderers - who he said had been among Paet's most trusted men on Phnom Vour
- as Ung Ji, Kuy Vutha, Kuy Pin, Ung Phat and Nguon Sat.
The five, who he
believed had received a message from Paet to kill Vorn, fled after the murders,
apparently to join Paet in Koh Sla.
The five were among 425 former Phnom
Vour guerrillas enlisted into the RCAF in December after their
Col Man expressed concern that there might be more "bad men"
among the defectors who could carry out similar murders for the Khmer
It was important, he said, that the defectors were looked after
and watched carefully.
"If we treat them well and give them enough food
and strictly control them, the same kind of incident should not occur
At Chhouk Rin's former KR camp at Chamka Bei (Farm 3) on Phnom
Vour, now guarded by defectors recruited into the RCAF, several former
guerrillas complained about a lack of food.
They said their rice ration
was not enough, and they had no money to buy fish or meat.
One said that
when he had been in the jungle with the KR, he had been able to get money to buy
food and other goods by looting villages in government-controlled
"Now I can't do that. While I was at Phnom Vour [in the KR], I
could earn money to buy a television and radio...now I have sold them to get
money to buy food."
A government official last month acknowledged there
were problems feeding the thousands of KR defectors - many of whom have been
re-armed and integrated into the RCAF - who surrendered under
While there have been reports of KR units targeting defectors
and their families for reprisals, Vorn's murder is apparently the first case of
defectors carrying out attacks on their former masters' orders.
also served as a reminder that the KR in the south, despite Phnom Vour's fall,
are not completely wiped out.
Colonel Miech Man said KR hit-and-run
attacks on villages and RCAF positions had increased in the last two months.
While the rebels seemed a little stronger, he believed there was no danger of
them re-capturing Phnom Vour.
"They are outnumbered and in this rainy
season we will protect Phnom Vour... and occupy it forever."
He said Paet
- who also lost his Koh Sla base to the RCAF in December but remains in jungle
in the area - had only 50-60 fighters left.
Chhouk Rin's deputy, Captain
Srey Sam, would not rule out Paet retaking his former Phnom Vour
"I can't say....you should wait until the rainy season
Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Rin - in charge of keeping Phnom
Vour in government hands - remains a secret. When interviewed at length by the
Post following his enlistment into the RCAF in December, he was openly living in
a decrepit villa on the Kep beachfront.
He admitted his leading of the KR
train ambush last July which kidnapped the three foreigners, but denied any
knowledge of their later deaths.