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B'bang abuses surface

B'bang abuses surface

SEVERAL hundred villagers have complained about plundering of property, and the rape

of at least one woman, during military clashes in Battambang last month.

Human rights workers are still investigating but have so far discovered two incidents

of alleged mass plundering by Funcinpec-allied soldiers in the aftermath of battles

with Cambodian People's Party (CPP) loyalists.

The United Nations Special Representative on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, is

expected to visit Battambang next week to be updated on human rights abuses there

during the fighting.

According to information prepared by a number of human rights groups, about 200 soldiers

looted from villagers' homes around an agricultural center at Neth Ba, off Route

5, on Feb 14.

The soldiers were Funcinpec soldiers from Siem Reap and Battambang divisions and

a group of Khmer Rouge defectors from neighboring Banteay Meanchey province, according

to a joint report prepared by NGOs. Other sources say the so-called Blue Khmer, former

KPNLAF soldiers from Banteay Meanchey who wore blue bandanas, were involved.

The troops were on the way to Phnom Thippedey in Battambang's southern Moung Russei

district when they clashed with CPP forces near Doeung Prieng commune.

Further clashes lasting nearly 24 hours occurred at Neth Ba, where there is a Royal

army base which was occupied by about 60 CPP troops.

Some 200 complaints had since been made by villagers living in the area, most of

whom fled during the battle. All of the complaints were about the theft of property,

except one which was about an alleged rape, said one human rights worker who did

not want to be named.

Another set of complaints about pillaging had been made by villagers who fled from

nearby Nikun, in Chroy Sdau commune, during skirmishes there. The fighting involved

the same group of Funcinpec troops, and a group of CPP militiamen.

The human rights worker said few reports had come from Phnom Thippedey - scene of

some of the hottest fighting - and investigators would visit there next week.

Unofficial reports from Battambang put the death toll in clashes there mid-February

at around 20, though some observers suggest it could be considerably higher.

The situation calmed - except for the murder of a Funcinpec commune election candidate

which the party feared was politically-motivated - after the province's four top

officials were recalled to Phnom Penh Feb 17.

A lengthy meeting of the Prime Ministers and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces top brass

was held in Phnom Penh Feb 26 to discuss Battambang. The meeting culminated in the

PMs issuing a written order banning Royal army forces from any unauthorised movements,

un-authorised possession of weapons, and illegal recruit of new fighters.

But at Post press time, the futures of recalled Battambang Governor Ung Samy (CPP)

and Deputy Governor Serey Kosal (Funcinpec), and the parties' respective military

chiefs in the province, had not been decided.

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