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No sign of villagers allegedly conscripted in army: group

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090507_03.jpg

Rights group says it cannot locate 30 people taken to Preah Vihear; army official casts doubt on conscription claims.

Photo by:

TRACEY SHELTON 

A soldier looks out from Preah Vihear temple in this file photograph. 

AMONITOR from the rights  group Adhoc says he has been unable to locate more than 30 villagers from Pailin province who were said to have been forced into joining the army after travelling to Preah Vihear province last month, as a military official questioned the veracity of the allegations.

The villagers were said to have been encouraged by the chief of Baysey village, Him Heoun, to travel on April 20 to Preah Vihear, where he said they would be able to find employment as construction workers.

Him Heoun could not be reached for comment, but Chhoun Makara, Pailin provincial coordinator from the rights group Adhoc, said last week "when they arrived, they were forced into the army".

Preah Vihear Deputy Governor Sor Thavy said Wednesday that he did not have any information about the case.

"I don't know what happened to them because no one has complained to me about this," he said.

"I will help them if they have been cheated, but until now I don't know anything about this problem."

Nong Vanny, chief of research for the Military Police, said that he had received a complaint last month from parents who claimed their two sons

"were cheated by the village chief to work as construction workers, but then were forced to be soldiers at Preah Vihear".

He said Wednesday that he was not entirely convinced that the claims were true.

"I don't know how the village chief could force them to be soldiers, and I don't believe the villagers' complaints 100 percent," he said.

Chhoun Makara also said he still did not know exactly how the men could have been forcibly conscripted, as he had not yet been able to speak with the appropriate officials.

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