KRATIE - A spokesman for the 552 Khmer Rouge defectors integrated in to RCAF here
at the beginning of the month says the troops are angry and upset by their treatment
from the army so far.
An officer for the soldiers, mainly from Division 801, said that they had been left
to sleep in the open and had not received enough food or medical care, nor had they
seen any salary.
RCAF has acknowledged the problem but says it is the same throughout the country
- the army is short of cash.
Seng Kham Chan Tarong, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the government
had guaranteed that it would provide food, shelter, clothing and money for the defectors.
But he said right now there was not enough food to go around.
However he was not concerned that the current spartan conditions would drive the
defectors back to the forest. He said that even though conditions were hard, they
were easier with the government than what they were in the jungle.
His comment was echoed by General Neang Phat of the Defense Ministry. "Their
current life is much better then when they were under Ta Mok... they now have freedom
to do as they like."
Tarong said that he believed despite some shortages the material benefits of having
defected were attractive to the former guerrillas.
"They cannot go back when we have good control, good food and medical supplies,"
"We will not leave them to continue to be guerrillas to continue the bloody
war between Khmer and Khmer. The government will not ignore to them."
The defectors in Kratie don't dispute RCAF's assessment of their motivation for defecting.
Nor do they want to go back. They say they just want what was promised them.
One soldier said he defected because "all of my life, all the time fighting,
He said that Ta Mok and the other senior members of the Khmer Rouge were wealthy
but they never shared the wealth nor did they adequately provide for their men. He
said even if they had done so he and his comrades would still have defected because
they were sick of the fighting and sick of Ta Mok.
He said Ta Mok had got so paranoid he was offering Thai mercenaries 500 baht a day
to guard him.
Meanwhile the defectors are now holding out hope for a promised resettlement package
which would see them settled into two new villages near Kratie.
Tarong said that package still had to be worked out between the army and provincial
authorities but he believed the government would help solve the problem.