MARCHING TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE?
These soldiers at RCAF's Pich Nil training center might survive a demobilization drive, but thousands of others may go.
A MAJOR shake up for Cambodia's armed forces is being
mooted in the wake of the collapse of the Khmer Rouge and
new murmurs of peace from the resistance at O'Smach.
RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan told the Post that
he would be submitting draft legislation for army reform
to the new government.
Ke Kim Yan said that there were too many divisions in the
army - more than were approved by the general staff - and
in addition, it is not clear how many troops are attached
to each division.
He said it makes sense to reduce the size of the army,
given that the demise of the Khmer Rouge has led to a
decrease in fighting. He said a reduction would also
allow RCAF to concentrate on proper training for the
remaining troops and it would save the country money.
There is World Bank money available for the
demobilization of the armed forces. This money could be
tapped into once the new government has been installed
and deemed legitimate by the international community.
There can be little doubt as to the wisdom of reforming
the armed services.
RCAF has a tradition of poor pay which is often late,
inadequate equipment, rudimentary medical care and
training that could best be described as "on the
However it remains to be seen whether the proposals will
be successful, given that RCAF has strong elements of
warlordism among its various commanders. It is hard to
imagine that any of them will be keen to see a reduction
in their power base.
And while the Khmer Rouge may no longer be the drain they
once were on the nation's military, the resistance in
O'Smach is still tying upgovernment forces.
However, the resistance, under general Nhek Bun Chhay,
said that it is prepared to negotiate a settlement once
the election result is confirmed. Part of any resistance
settlement would have to be a pardon for Bun Chhay, who
was convicted with Funcinpec President Prince Norodom
Ranariddh on weapons charges in March. Ranariddh was
pardoned by the King, but Bun Chhay was not.
So far, there has been no indication that a pardon for
Bun Chhay will be forthcoming.
Despite that, senior resistance leader Khan Savoeun said
that they would welcome a negotiated settlement to the
fighting with the government forces, but it will have to
await the new government.
He said they did not want to continue fighting, they just
And Savoeun said that the resistance would be happy to
join up with RCAF again, even under the current
He said that he had previously worked with Ke Kim Yan and
he liked the way he managed to maintain a middle position
rather than get involved in factional fighting.
As for the factions - identified in the main as having
Hok Lundy, Kun Kim, Sao Sokha, Keo Pong and Chea Sophara
on one side and Ke Kim Yan, Tea Banh and Chea Sim on the
other - Savoeun said he knows the strengths and
weaknesses of each but would not want to get involved.
However, he said he believed that the Chea Sim faction
was more in favor of a peaceful settlement than the
other, more Hun Sen-aligned faction.
He said that Hun Sen has been in power a long time, yet
he still has not been able to bring peace to the country.
Meanwhile one resistance commander at O'Smach, Choeun Ny,
said his troops would take their lead from Prince
He said if the Prince joins the government then they
But with plans for a smaller RCAF there is no immediate
indication of what the O'Smach fighters' destination