CHAMKA DOUNG headquarters, Phnom Vour, Kampot - FIGHTING between the Royal Government's armed forces and the KR guerrillas around Phnom Vour (Vine mountain) base was stalled temporarily as KR Col Chuk Rin lead scores of guerrillas in a mass defection.
In a brief interview with the Post at Kep on Oct 16 after his surrender, Col Rin identified himself as a 'famous Khmer Rouge commander' based in Phnom Vour base in charge of military operations for Chhuk and Kep districts in Kampot province.
He said: "Yesterday, 147 KR guerrillas and 50 other families came down from the mountain base along with me to defect to the Royal Government."
He said the men brought two DK 80mm mortar launchers, three DK 60 mm mortar launchers, a heavy machine gun and more than 100 other assorted weapons with them.
Though Col Rin was the man responsible for the July 26 raid on the train in Kompong Trach in which 15 people died and three Western backpackers were taken hostage, the turncoat KR cadre was unable to shed any light on the fate of the captives.
There has been no firm evidence about the fate of Briton Mark Slater, 28, Australian David Wilson, 29, and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, for the last six weeks.
But Col Rin said he was unable to give the whereabouts of the hostages or if they were alive because they had been kept at another stronghold on Phnom Vour, run by his superior Gen Paet.
Col Rin described how and why he decided to surrender to the Royal Government. He said he had been persuaded by his relatives who had been convinced by General Tea Rithichhut, Royal Government representative in Kep and Bokor, that it would be beneficial to him. "[They said] the government will not punish or kill me, and I was told that I will have a post in the government," Col Rin said, though he did not know what kind of post.
"One more reason for defecting is to end the war in Cambodia. I am tired of war, and I want to come back to rebuild Cambodia."
He explained that he had sent his wife to inform Gen Tea Rithichhut, about his intentions a few days before he came down from Vine Mountain.
In a separate interview with the Post on Oct 15, a KR defector who gave his name only as Khorn, said: "I am not a real KR guerrilla. A real KR would not defect, they absolutely do not to surrender. They are with General Peat who are holding the three Western hostages."
He said he had been working with the KR for two years. "I lived in Dangkor village, about 10 km south of Phnom Vour. I used to go to Phnom Vour to cut wood, and some KR used to ask me to buy food or cigarettes.
"But in 1991 before the election, I was accused of being a KR accomplice by local authorities of the former State of Cambodia. They tried to arrest me.
"To escape arrest, I had to defect to the Khmer Rouge," Khorn explained.
He said that though Phnom Vour was surrounded for more than two months by government troops, KR guerrillas on the mountain base were not starving. "They do not lack food. Every family has their own produce like rice and potatoes," Khorn said.
Another defector, Chea Mony, who identified himself as a KR company commander, said his wife was afraid of being killed by government shelling and that she had asked him to surrender to the government forces.
"I don't want my wife and children to be killed. So I had to decide to come down from the mountain," Mony said.
He said that every house on the mountain base has a television which could receive IBC and TVK from Phnom Penh.