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An ex-guerrilla with a touch of theatrics

An ex-guerrilla with a touch of theatrics

B ATTAMBANG'S deputy governor points in the direction of the bridge he blew up about

10 years ago.

"Twice, I launched attacks against Battambang," explained Serei Kosal.

Since the Peace Accords and the elections, Kosal has given up his life as a guerrilla

fighter - and now works with one of his fomer enemies, provincial governor Ung Samy.

Kosal was born in 1953 in Pursat province. During the KR regime, he started a guerrilla

force called the "white dragons" deep in the mountains of his home province.

"In 1976, we started the movement with a former general of the Lon Nol regime

and peasants who loved democracy," says Kosal. "We were launching attacks

against the 'Reds'. I was with my troops in Phnom Kheo. Twice we launched attacks

against Ta Sar village in Pursat. But we lacked food and got sick with malaria.

"I went to see my mother and my sisters in the village to try and gather some

rice. As the militia from the Khmer Rouge were aware of my presence, they encircled

the village. I managed to run away as the forces started to look into houses. More

than 120 troops died of disease or during the fighting," he adds.

In 1976, Kosal left Pursat and went northwest to try to make contact with another

resistance group he'd heard about which was fighting the KR. Reaching the Thai border,

he and a friend were caught in a KR ambush. He escaped, but his friend was killed.

"I asked an old man if I could stay and live with him. He agreed and I stayed

there till the end of Pol Pot regime," he says.

After the KR were ousted from power, Kosal took part in the creation of the Sereika

movement against the Vietnamese occupation.

"I was a member of the resistance with Toan Chhay, and I choose the same name

for my group as the one I started during the Khmer Rouge regime. We were the 'White

Dragons'."

As he recalls his time in the jungle he tells some of his men standing nearby to

check the security around his house.

Kosal acts with deliberate gestures, moving his arms in large sweeps, with a rather

theatrical method of talking and stressing ideas.

As for the CPP or the Khmer Rouge, Kosal uses the same word to describe the people

he used to fight. For him, they are the "reds".

Kosal recalled a time when he was hiding, waiting for a Vietnamese armed personnal

carrier and ready to call by radio his friends Nhek Bun Chhay and Khan Savoeun who

would attack the APC.

During his time in the resistance, Kosal was jailed twice in Battambang prison. The

CPP version of the jailing is quite different from his: " He was a bandit. He

was involved in the robbery of statues," explained a CPP civil servant. "The

authorities knew that he was smuggling statues at that time, that is why they arrested

him."

Kosal says the allegations were false.

He adds proudly:" Do not forget to mention that I used to be a three star general

but with the reduction of the army, I now have one star. I have also been appointed

an advisor to Prince Ranariddh for national security.

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