I NTERNAL rivalries and fears of an imminent armed clash between the renegade Khmer
Rouge factions prompted the official integration of Ieng Sary's forces under the
Royal government umbrella last week.
The long-awaited integration of a claimed 4,400 fighters in Pailin and Phnom Malai
occured with little warning, after Second Prime Minister Hun Sen clearly sided with
other breakaway KR to try to put pressure on Sary.
Three breakaway commanders, 909 chief Him Put, and Front 250 commanders Ean Phan
and Sok Chhean, appeared on local television at Hun Sen's Takhmau home, saying they
decided not to join DNUM because it sought conditions in joining with the Royal Cambodian
Armed Forces (RCAF).
The divisions within the government - matched by the apparent differing loyalties
of each of the KR factions - appear as heightened as ever.
Forces loyal to Sary's Democratic National Union Movement (DNUM) reportedly came
close to trading bullets with 909 and 205 units.
First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh invited Malai military leader Sok Pheap
to Phnom Penh just before the King's birthday, and later unveiled a letter of gratitude
to Funcinpec signed by Sok Pheap and his Pailin counterpart, Ee Chhean.
Hun Sen, soon after, played host to two rebel commanders who defected directly to
the government, rather than join Sary's DNUM.
In Nov 2 radio speech, Hun Sen effectively demanded a swift integration of DNUM's
forces, blaming Ieng Sary and "a handful of bad politicians" in Phnom Penh
for the delay.
Earlier that day - in a continuation of CPP's policy to lure direct defections from
breakaway KR, to undercut the size of Sary's forces - ceremonies were held in Phnom
Penh marking the defections of KR Fronts 909 and 250.
Within a few hours, Sary was ringing Phnom Penh to say he was ready to integrate
There were few smiles among DNUM's leadership as the two former KR strongholds were
handed over, officially at least, to government control in integration ceremonies
in Pailin and Phnom Malai, Nov 6-7.
While Sary said the integration was conducted with the "free will" of his
followers, his secretary Long Norin was less diplomatic: "This integration is
not our will.
"The government wanted it and it will have to deal with the consequences. We
will not be responsible for what could happen from now on," said Norin.
Ee Chhean, the Pailin military chief, was persuaded not to deliver his pre-prepared
speech at the Pailin ceremony because it was considered too "political"
by the government.
According to Chhean's speech notes, which were freely distributed to journalists
by DNUM officials, the military commander had intended to publicly criticise the
forces of KR Fronts 250 and 909 after they defected.
"Although those people had already joined the DNUM and had promised to make
the people of their bases understand the objective of our movement, they did not
keep their word at all.
"On their return to their bases, they did not lose time in ill-treating our
combattants stationed there and moreover they joined forces with outsiders to oppress
the people living in their region...," the speech notes read.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that DNUM and the two fronts had been on the verge of
armed confrontation days earlier on Oct 27.
CPP General Pol Saroeun, RCAF deputy chief of staff, said that Ee Chhean had tried
to dismarm troops of Front 909 but was met with resistence.
Chhean deployed five tanks on an access route to Pailin, but there was no fight,
Sary denied that DNUM had attempted to disarm Front 909 but indicated there had been
a stand-off with Front 250. A "misunderstanding" between his supporters
and Front 250 could have resulted in a bloodshed, he said, so he decided to take
control of the situation.
"I told them 'That's it, we must phone the Royal Government [and say] that we
are ready to integrate," Sary told journalists during the Pailin ceremony on
That phone call was made Nov 2, after Hun Sen made his speech attacking Sary and
some Phnom Penh politicians, whom he did not name but was clearly referring to Funcinpec.
He accused Sary and those politicians of persuading DNUM commanders to postpone integration
until they could secure key posts in RCAF and national police.
"[Those politicians] have pushed these forces into continuing to bargain with
the Royal Government as if they want to form the so-called tripartite or quadripartite
Cambodian army and police," Hun Sen said.
"What I have been doing during the past few weeks is to ruin the trick of a
handful of bad politicians in Phnom Penh," he said.
Prince Ranariddh, on the same day, acknowledged that he had "not only agreed",
but asked for, Ee Chhean and Sok Pheap's request to be given positions in the RCAF
general staff to be granted by the government.
"It is a question of fairness," Ranariddh told Reuters on Royal Air Cambodge's
inaugural flight to Guangzhou, China.
"Because they still have 20,000 men," he said, citing a figure far above
independent estimates. "Twenty-thousand men is a big army. This big army should
be under control and to keep it under the control we do need someone at the general
staff and not outside the general staff."
Ranariddh confirmed that he had invited Sok Pheap and a deputy of Ee Chhean's to
Phnom Penh on Oct 28. The pair had sought an audience with King Norodom Sihanouk
but it had not been granted.
Ranariddh acknowledged that he forgot to inform Hun Sen of this invitation.
On Nov 9, Funcinpec released a statement referring to a petition of thanks signed
by Ee Chhean and Sok Pheap dated Oct 31.
According to the statement, the two commanders presented their respect to Ranariddh
and thanked him for the advice he gave them to "rapidly realize the integration
of the armed forces."
Asked why the letter was not released earlier, a Funcinpec source said that calmness
and patience had been required.
The source expressed surprise at Hun Sen's Nov 2 speech, but said that it showed
the Second Prime Minister was trying to cling to something he had missed since the
start of the KR split.
"I never saw the will of the Khmer Rouge to talk with the CPP," he said.
An adviser to Hun Sen, who didn't want to be named, questioned the authenticity of
"We did not know about the visit [to Phnom Penh of] Sok Pheap, and this letter
could be backdated.
"Why would you wait for one week before releasing such important news,"
In the meantime, neither Ee Chhean nor Sok Pheap have yet secured new ranks and positions
in RCAF. While their troops in Pailin and Malai have changed their uniforms, just
what kind of an integration there will really be is also unclear.