ANDONG BEI - Aiyong is a popular saying among the Khmer Rouge. Khmer for "puppet",
aiyong is still the first word to reach the lips of recent rebel defectors to describe
government soldiers that have visited their areas in past weeks.
Children at this small village 8km south of Anlong Veng point and shout "aiyong!"
at their new allies, much to the discomfort of both armies fighting against Ta Mok's
dwindling band of hardcore rebels.
"The people are uneducated, especially the children. They don't have time to
study because they are busy with their families making sharp bamboo sticks,"
explains Khon, a soldier from a newly defected division.
Khon adds that he is concerned government troops will become angry at the liberal
use of the word, but hopes they will understand that aiyong is a word villagers have
heard from the mouths of their leaders and over Khmer Rouge radio from the day they
The conversational vocabulary of the jungle revolutionary also includes: yuon (racial
slur for a Vietnamese); koan yong ("puppet child" - a CPP soldier); koan
ra (a Funcinpec resistance soldier, named for his camouflage uniform, or para); and
koan cheat ("nationalist child" - a Khmer Rouge soldier).
General Chea Man, commander of Military Region 4, said he has noticed former rebel
villagers' broad use of aiyong and will ask the leaders of the defectors to clarify
the use of the term to their people. But government commanders have in some cases
earned their nicknames.
To keep sensitive communications from being intercepted by their enemies, and perhaps
even their new friends, RCAF radio operators often speak over their ICOMs in Vietnamese.
"Yuon!" whisper the children, poking fingers at their friends for confirmation
after one commander spoke over his radio.
The RCAF commander turns and jokes with the children after his message is sent, saying
later that he has made an effort to make the young ones not fear him.
He wants them to understand that he is really Khmer like they are.