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MPs urge inquiry into Pailin

E EGISLATORS are determined to give the co-defense ministers a parliamentary

grilling to find out exactly what caused the military debacles at Pailin and

Anlong Veng.

Fourteen Funcinpec and BLDP members of the National Assembly

have signed a petition demanding that Co-Ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Tea

Chamrath appear before the National Assembly to face questions on the losses and

military strategy failings.

The MPs say they are exercising their powers

under article 89 of the constitution, which says that "a high ranking member of

the government" can be invited before the Assembly to "clarify important special

issues." There are 120 members in the Assembly, and there are just enough MPs

supporting the petition.

The petition has reportedly been given last week

to National Assembly Chairman Chea Sim, who is to send it to the defense

ministry. He has reportedly not done so because of heavy political opposition

from within his own Cambodian People's Party.

"There is so much secrecy

about military affairs that we do not even know exactly how many soldiers died

in Pailin," says Human Rights Commission Chairman Kem Sokha of the BLDP, one of

the signatories. "We have a right to know from the government how and why Anlong

Veng and Pailin were lost."

There have been several reports about

terrible conditions at the battlefront, with government soldiers going without

food, water and salaries, but the government has not publicly

commented.

There have also been allegations of massive looting by

government soldiers at Pailin, with the worst offenders being high ranking

officers. In fact, several soldiers are said to have left because they did not

get their due share of the loot.

Also, when the government soldiers fled

Pailin, they are reported to left behind several wounded soldiers at the Pailin

hospital, all of whom were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

The petitioners

hope that the co-ministers of defense can clarify how much of these reports is

true. They also wish to discuss openly what the military plans really were

especially with the escalation in fighting.

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