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Life's a party in gov't-controlled Anlong Veng

Life's a party in gov't-controlled Anlong Veng

PARTY ON!

Former Khmer Rouge division commander Yim Phanna (middle) enganges in a

little post-defection ceremony revelry with three RCAF officers in Anlong Veng.

ANLONG VENG - The defectors did a quick change of uniform behind the stage, from

their Chinese plain green to new RCAF camouflage.

Most of them struggled to put on the army boots in replacement of their old Mao tire

sandals. Their awkward first steps and clumsy, staggering gait would later be much

repeated during the night-time "National Reconciliation" party - fueled

by huge quantities of Chinese beer.

A crowd of several thousand villagers - having only recently returned from O'Bai

Tap and other temporary sanctuaries after the March mutiny against Ta Mok - quietly

watched this historic occasion. Their villages, cut off from the rest of Cambodia

by three decades of war,were now reunited.

More than 150 dignitaries also attended the June 5 integration ceremony for the former

Khmer Rouge. Ministers, diplomats, military attachés, press and 1,500 RCAF soldiers

- all to see 700 defectors.

There was a tour of the town for the out-of-town guests, including Ta Mok's house.

One Western diplomat asked, "Where is Ta Mok anyway?" A second undiplomatically

replied: "Hiding in Thailand." Another hurriedly changed the subject, hinting

that the Thai military attaché, huddled in a truck with his counterparts from

Russia and Vietnam, looked very uncomfortable.

What UNTAC had failed to achieve, in spite of being one of the biggest UN peace-keeping

operations ever mounted in history, the Royal Cambodian government had succeeded

- the unification of its territories once more under the jurisdiction of the Constitution

and the national government. Except, of course, for the odd few places now held by

resistance general Nhek Bun Chhay.

But this was not a day to talk about Bun Chhay - this was a day of celebration. There

was beer to be drunk. Lots of it, Chinese Tsingtao cans all stacked in cases to the

left of the disco's loudspeakers which began blaring out traditional Khmer songs

as soon as the diplomats had left.

China's aid was integral in keeping the Khmer Rouge alive and in strongholds such

as Anlong Veng from 1979 until 1985, when

combined CPAF (Cambodian People's Armed Forces) and Vietnamese forces first liberated

Anlong Veng.

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A rebel soldier trys on his new uniform.

Control of the town changed hands several times until 1989 when Ta Mok re-established

it as a strong guerilla base. He relied on Chinese bullets, mortars, rockets and

tanks. And now it's Chinese beer that's used to celebrate peace, reconciliation and

the end of the Khmer Rouge. The music was too loud and the beer too strong for anyone

much to notice the irony.

Members of the NEC were also on hand to oversee arrangements for voter registration

that started up three days later on June 8th. According to government figures there

are about 22,000 people in the area, including 1,518 defectors and 2,631 RCAF soldiers.

The likely number of those who are old enough to register as voters was projected

to be less than 7,000. After the official close of registration, European Union election

workers reported on June 16 that 4,597 people had been registered in the area. The

nine polling stations in the former rebel territory are part of the handful around

the country that had registration extended for three days after complaints that not

all potential voters had a chance to register.

The integration of Anlong Veng will see the creation of two new districts - Anlong

Veng, and Trapeang Prasat - within the province of Siem Reap. Yim Phanna has been

nominated as district chief for Anlong Veng (as well as RCAF commander).

Any notions of Pailin-style autonomy have been rejected by Ministry of Interior officials

who say that Anlong Veng will be just like any other district.

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