P AILIN/PHNOM PENH - One day in Pailin last week, police officers from Battambang
sat down at a restaurant to have a beer with former Khmer Rouge policemen.
"We have to meet them and discuss with them," explains a government police
officer of the - albeit casual - negotiations over the integration of the breakaway
KR into the government fold.
"We need time to organize and till now it is a bit messy. It is complicated
and nothing is clear," the officer said.
Three weeks after the long-awaited formal integration of military forces from the
Democratic National Union Movement (DNUM) into the government army, not much has
changed in Pailin.
"The integration was on the paper. Khmer Rouge authorities are still in charge,"
said a Ministry of Interior official in Phnom Penh. "Those people are still
under their old bosses."
The ministry sent an 11-person mission to Pailin for a week to figure out what the
current local administration is like, while provincial officials from Battambang
have also visited.
"We are trying to find out what system they adopt now and what will be the next
step," said the Interior official.
One of the mission's tasks was to photograph all the KR policemen there, partly to
establish exactly how many there are. The same has not been done with the soldiers
- their numbers remain subject to widely-differing claims.
Some government staff sent to Pailin acknowledged that their mission was not easy
because of reluctance among the former KR to provide information.
"They would not show me the hospital," said a young doctor sent from Battambang
to look at health services in Pailin.
According to the Ministry of Interior, the government has yet to officially decide
what kind of administration should be set up in Pailin.
One option, considered in the past, was to set up Pailin as a new province, much
the same as Kep or Kompong Som, which are towns but which have provincial status.
"Today, because of the integration, we are considering it differently. We would
rather consider Pailin and Malai as a district," said the Interior official.
Another possibility being considered by the mission was to set up a unified command
with representatives from the government and DNUM.
"The command would be a first step to being able to reinstate administration
services. After that, the government would consider whether there is stability and
may upgrade the [area] to be a district," the official said.
But Long Norin, secretary to DNUM chief Ieng Sary, said he had not heard of the idea.
According to him, Malai and Pailin military chiefs Sok Pheap and Ee Chhean were still
giving the orders in the areas.
Officials acknowledged that one of the most important obstacles to a real integration
with the people of Pailin was the road problem. Route 10 between Pailin and Battambang
required extensive renovation, and at least 10km of it needed demining.
In the meantime, helicopter is the main method of transport to Pailin, and one that
is attracting customers.
At Battambang airport, the going rate for business people to pay for a trip to Pailin
is about 1,300 Baht ($52) to get there and 500 Baht ($20) to get back.