BATTAMBANG Human rights workers here are warning that
Rouge defectors, unhappy with the government and the
recent election, are being called upon to take up arms
There are also signs of dissent in Pailin and rumors that
the stability of the northwest of the country is shaky.
Rights workers say that messages purporting to be from
Khieu Samphan are circulating in Samlot, Sampoeloun and
Phnom Prik, telling people they have been cheated and to
return to the jungle.
Even if the calls are bogus, rights workers say that they
are unsettling defectors, leading them to believe they
have an option other than staying with the government.
One local rights worker said that some defectors were
seriously considering the call, particularly those who
had been threatened by the police or army following the
election because they did not vote for the CPP.
"For example in Phnom Prik, where they voted for Sam
Rainsy, the Government has put pressure on them with
threats and intimidation forcing them to move away,"
A senior Battambang provincial official said he had heard
of the approaches and had also heard of offers of $250
cash for each family returning to the rebels.
While the report says that the messages are being passed
in the name of Samphan, there is no confirmation that he
is behind the call.
It is, indeed, unlikely given that recent defector Tep
Khunnal has reportedly said that Samphan is being held
hostage by Ta Mok.
But the Battambang human rights worker said it did not
really matter who was behind the call.
What was important was that the defectors believed it was
He said Samphan was still popular among the defectors who
see him as more moderate and reasonable than Ta Mok.
"Most of the KR defectors are with Samphan even if
their bodies are on the Government side," he said.
A UN rights worker in Phnom Penh said that it was hardly
surprising that elements of the KR were trying to gear
the movement up again.
He said that the KR never had a firm grip on reality and
the few who remained probably sincerely believed that
they could rise again, no matter how ridiculous that
seemed to those outside the movement.
KR defector Im Sopheap said there was no chance that the
could rise again, saying: "the KR is finished".
Region Five military commander Ko Chhean said that the
problem with the defectors had been that some of them
moved to avoid the fighting in their areas, particularly
He said that they were generally happy and settled.
However this was not the view of defectors spoken to by
One of them was bitter that the government had reneged on
its promise to provide land and houses for them.
He said the government had only looked after the leaders
in Pailin and not the ordinary people.
The human rights worker said this was a common theme
the defectors. Even in Pailin, which is seen as stable,
there are similar grumbles which is a worrying sign.
"This kind of unrest could destabilize Pailin. The
CPP have bought the top people in Pailin but they could
not buy the bottom people."
Authorities in the areas have dismissed the claims that
there are any problems with the defectors.
Sampoeloun district governor Chum Sib said that some
from the KR had defected to him but none of his people
Meanwhile in Pailin there is an apparent rift in the
governing of the autonomous zone between Ieng Sary and Ee
Sources within Pailin's provincial leadership said that
Ee Chhean's approval for a casino and brothels in the
town was opposed by Sary.
The source said that the ordinary people in Pailin were
angry with the casino and the brothels and claimed that
they had brought crime into the town.
The source also said the Sam Rainsy Party victory in
Pailin could be attributed to dissatisfaction with the
government, which they believe had promised them much but
had not followed through.
Meanwhile in Battambang itself human rights workers said
that things had been relatively quiet on the surface,
even during the period of demonstrations in Phnom Penh.
However they said there had been calls for demonstrations
in Battambang too but police and military there had been
too well organized and managed to thwart those plans.
A Funcinpec provincial government official said that the
police had confiscated ICOM radios from party workers to
stop them being able to organize a demonstration.
He said police had trained 100 officers in riot control
and then made it clear to opposition officials that they
would use them against demonstrators.
Currently Adhoc and Vigilance human rights workers are
investigating the seizure of the radios and other threats
of violence, but neither group was prepared to comment
till their inquiries were completed.
UN rights workers are investigating 32 cases of torture
in the area but they also said that their investigations
are not complete.
A Region 5 RCAF officer, Koy Dok, said his men had
confiscated some radios from Funcinpec officials but it
was to prevent them inciting trouble when the
demonstrations were on in Phnom Penh.
He also confirmed that the police had trained a riot
But he was bemused at the amount of attention that was
being given by human rights workers to the demonstrators.
Nor could he understand the media's interest in it.
When it was suggested to him that the photographs and
footage of monks being beaten and kicked had provoked
outrage he and three of his soldiers became very
"I saw that on TV, they weren't monks," he
said. One of the
soldiers added: "One of them was a soldier up here.
"He was Prince Ranariddh's bodyguard, he wasn't a