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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US warn Thais about KR deals

US warn Thais about KR deals

U NITED STATES President Bill Clinton has been told that he should stop US aid to

Thailand if cross border dealing between the Thai military and the Khmer Rouge

continues.

Senator Craig Thomas - the chairman of the Senate's

subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs - met in Washington with

ambassadors nominated for Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia last

month.

Thomas said he was impressed by all four men, but the one issue

that they were "unable to address to my satisfaction..." were constant

allegations and evidence of Thai-KR links.

Thomas wrote to Clinton saying

that if a significant effort was not made to investigate and stem the trade, as

Thailand has promised to do, then Thomas would call for US aid to Thailand to be

cut.

A provision in the US law outlawing the KR calls for the President

to "terminate assistance to any country... that he determines is cooperating,

tactically or strategically, with the Khmer Rouge in military

operations."

"Let me note that I greatly value the close relationship

between us and the government and people of Thailand," Thomas wrote to

Clinton.

"However warm or important that relationship... we cannot allow

it to obscure or interfere with what is our equally important dedication to the

principles of democracy taking root in Cambodia.

"I, and I hope my

colleagues, will be watching developments closely," Thomas said.

Thomas

told Clinton of a history of Thai involvement with the KR, including acting as a

"funnel" for Chinese-supplied arms and, more lately, a US Embassy estimation

from Bangkok that Thai logging concessions amount to $40 million in KR-held

areas.

"The Thais have consistently, albeit often disingenuously, denied

any ties to the KR or to the timber trade," Thomas wrote.

"Each round of

denials, however, is soon followed by press reports and concrete evidence to the

contrary".

Despite denials right up to the Prime Minister, credible

evidence - most lately from the London-based Global Witness group - "...fully

confirm, in my opinion, that the trucks are still rolling across the Thai

border."

The Thais have been greatly angered by persistent reports of

complicity with the KR. The Thai military command recently called for the

withdrawal of the AFP correspondent based in Phnom Penh for writing similar

articles, a statement recorded on the front page of the Bangkok Post.

It

is thought that cross border trade is continuing despite strong efforts by

Bangkok to rein in and replace corrupt military elements stationed along the

Cambodian border. However, as Thomas noted to Clinton, the total monthly income

to the KR is estimated at between $10 million and $20 million.

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