Former Khmer Rouge division commander Yim Phanna (middle) enganges in a
little post-defection ceremony revelry with three RCAF officers in Anlong Veng.
ANLONG VENG - The defectors did a quick change of uniform behind the stage, from
their Chinese plain green to new RCAF camouflage.
Most of them struggled to put on the army boots in replacement of their old Mao tire
sandals. Their awkward first steps and clumsy, staggering gait would later be much
repeated during the night-time "National Reconciliation" party - fueled
by huge quantities of Chinese beer.
A crowd of several thousand villagers - having only recently returned from O'Bai
Tap and other temporary sanctuaries after the March mutiny against Ta Mok - quietly
watched this historic occasion. Their villages, cut off from the rest of Cambodia
by three decades of war,were now reunited.
More than 150 dignitaries also attended the June 5 integration ceremony for the former
Khmer Rouge. Ministers, diplomats, military attachés, press and 1,500 RCAF soldiers
- all to see 700 defectors.
There was a tour of the town for the out-of-town guests, including Ta Mok's house.
One Western diplomat asked, "Where is Ta Mok anyway?" A second undiplomatically
replied: "Hiding in Thailand." Another hurriedly changed the subject, hinting
that the Thai military attaché, huddled in a truck with his counterparts from
Russia and Vietnam, looked very uncomfortable.
What UNTAC had failed to achieve, in spite of being one of the biggest UN peace-keeping
operations ever mounted in history, the Royal Cambodian government had succeeded
- the unification of its territories once more under the jurisdiction of the Constitution
and the national government. Except, of course, for the odd few places now held by
resistance general Nhek Bun Chhay.
But this was not a day to talk about Bun Chhay - this was a day of celebration. There
was beer to be drunk. Lots of it, Chinese Tsingtao cans all stacked in cases to the
left of the disco's loudspeakers which began blaring out traditional Khmer songs
as soon as the diplomats had left.
China's aid was integral in keeping the Khmer Rouge alive and in strongholds such
as Anlong Veng from 1979 until 1985, when
combined CPAF (Cambodian People's Armed Forces) and Vietnamese forces first liberated
A rebel soldier trys on his new uniform.
Control of the town changed hands several times until 1989 when Ta Mok re-established
it as a strong guerilla base. He relied on Chinese bullets, mortars, rockets and
tanks. And now it's Chinese beer that's used to celebrate peace, reconciliation and
the end of the Khmer Rouge. The music was too loud and the beer too strong for anyone
much to notice the irony.
Members of the NEC were also on hand to oversee arrangements for voter registration
that started up three days later on June 8th. According to government figures there
are about 22,000 people in the area, including 1,518 defectors and 2,631 RCAF soldiers.
The likely number of those who are old enough to register as voters was projected
to be less than 7,000. After the official close of registration, European Union election
workers reported on June 16 that 4,597 people had been registered in the area. The
nine polling stations in the former rebel territory are part of the handful around
the country that had registration extended for three days after complaints that not
all potential voters had a chance to register.
The integration of Anlong Veng will see the creation of two new districts - Anlong
Veng, and Trapeang Prasat - within the province of Siem Reap. Yim Phanna has been
nominated as district chief for Anlong Veng (as well as RCAF commander).
Any notions of Pailin-style autonomy have been rejected by Ministry of Interior officials
who say that Anlong Veng will be just like any other district.