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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kratie guerrillas sold short after defection

Kratie guerrillas sold short after defection

KRATIE - A spokesman for the 552 Khmer Rouge defectors integrated in to RCAF here

at the beginning of the month says the troops are angry and upset by their treatment

from the army so far.

An officer for the soldiers, mainly from Division 801, said that they had been left

to sleep in the open and had not received enough food or medical care, nor had they

seen any salary.

RCAF has acknowledged the problem but says it is the same throughout the country

- the army is short of cash.

Seng Kham Chan Tarong, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the government

had guaranteed that it would provide food, shelter, clothing and money for the defectors.

But he said right now there was not enough food to go around.

However he was not concerned that the current spartan conditions would drive the

defectors back to the forest. He said that even though conditions were hard, they

were easier with the government than what they were in the jungle.

His comment was echoed by General Neang Phat of the Defense Ministry. "Their

current life is much better then when they were under Ta Mok... they now have freedom

to do as they like."

Tarong said that he believed despite some shortages the material benefits of having

defected were attractive to the former guerrillas.

"They cannot go back when we have good control, good food and medical supplies,"

he said.

"We will not leave them to continue to be guerrillas to continue the bloody

war between Khmer and Khmer. The government will not ignore to them."

The defectors in Kratie don't dispute RCAF's assessment of their motivation for defecting.

Nor do they want to go back. They say they just want what was promised them.

One soldier said he defected because "all of my life, all the time fighting,

always fighting".

He said that Ta Mok and the other senior members of the Khmer Rouge were wealthy

but they never shared the wealth nor did they adequately provide for their men. He

said even if they had done so he and his comrades would still have defected because

they were sick of the fighting and sick of Ta Mok.

He said Ta Mok had got so paranoid he was offering Thai mercenaries 500 baht a day

to guard him.

Meanwhile the defectors are now holding out hope for a promised resettlement package

which would see them settled into two new villages near Kratie.

Tarong said that package still had to be worked out between the army and provincial

authorities but he believed the government would help solve the problem.

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