Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KR defections almost 7,000

KR defections almost 7,000

KR defections almost 7,000

NEARLY 7,000 Khmer Rouge soldiers and militia defected last year, according to

latest Ministry of Defense figures.

A total of 6,624 KR - 4,922

guerrillas and 1,702 village militia - gave themselves up to government

authorities between January and December.

Nearly a quarter of them -

1,585 - came in the last half of December, as the government's amnesty program

reached its height.

The defections have continued in the New Year, with

372 KR fighters switching sides in the first six days of January, in the run-up

to the end of the amnesty on Jan 15.

Along with last year's defectors

came a total of 1,259 families, with 5,036 civilians, who had been living in

KR-controlled villages.

The provinces with the highest number of

defections last year were Siem Reap, Kampot, Kompong Speu and Kompong Cham.

Some 3,736 weapons - ranging from old rifles to artillery pieces-were

surrendered by KR who defected.

Meanwhile, 2,970 former KR soldiers have

got posts within the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces since October 1993, according

to a separate set of ministry figures.

They included three

Brigadier-Generals, nine Colonels, 30 Lieutenant Colonels, 39 Majors and 120

Captains.

The remaining defectors had abandoned their military career to

join their families, said Colonel Say Khon, director of a RCAF national training

center for defectors.

The center, in Kien Svay district of Kandal

province, about 20km south of Phnom Penh, had overseen the training of 1,725

defectors since it was established in September 1993. Other defectors had gone

straight into the RCAF without training.

Col Khon said seven courses for

defectors had been held, five at the center and one in Siem Reap and

Kep.

The course, lasting three months, covered subjects such as

Cambodia's constitution and government, human rights, army regulations and

discipline.

Teaching them how to fight was not necessary.

"Most

of them are good fighters, so we don't need to train them in military

strategies, "he said.

The center would soon begin to offer six-month job

skills training courses for defectors who did not want to join the RCAF.

"They could join their families to take up farming, for example, if they

wanted," he said.

Those who joined the RCAF were not obliged to use arms

against their former rebel comrades, but could be assigned to contact them to

try to convince them to try to convince them to defect.

Each trainee at

the center was paid 800 riels a day, and were being fed with food supplied by

World Vision and the Cambodia Red Cross.

The center was staffed by 34

trainers, made up of 29 RCAF of ficers, two workers from the Licadho human

rights group and three from the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

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