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Militias being recruited on the border: officials

Militias being recruited on the border: officials

Provincial officials say Cambodians living on the border want to join in defence of their nation, as Kingdom’s leaders call for calm

PROVINCIAL and military officials say they are recruiting militias along the border with Thailand to protect frontier villages if hostilities erupt again amid an ongoing dispute between the two countries over contested territory.

Some 2,400 Cambodians have already volunteered to serve in the paramilitary units in Oddar Meanchey province alone, said Deputy Governor Loun An.

"We are in the process of recruiting people for militias to protect homes and ensure security for people if there is a war with Thai soldiers. They have volunteered to serve the nation," Loun An told the Post Wednesday.

"Militia members receive no salary and do not register with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, although they will get some sponsorship money," Loun An added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Somchai Wongsawat are to meet Friday for talks on the border, and the government has called for calm following last week's border clash that has resulted in the deaths of three Cambodian soldiers and a Thai trooper.

The violence has only encouraged more Cambodians to come to their nation's defence, said Chuong Praseuth of the Banteay Meanchey provincial administration.

"All people here want to carry guns against an invasion by Thai soldiers. They have heard in the past that Thai soldiers have shot and killed Cambodians along the border after they crossed into Thailand illegally, so some of them [Cambodians] have already suffered at the hands of Thai soldiers. When they saw Thai soldiers doing that again, it only added fuel to their anger," he said.

Plon Dara, the Banteay Meanchey provincial military commander, said Wednesday that he received orders from RCAF's Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan to recruit even more militia members.

"I already have 1,140 more men who want to volunteer to join the militia," Plon Dara said.

Bun Pin, deputy governor of Trapaing Prasat district in Oddar Meanchey province, said Wednesday the militias along the border are filled with veteran soldiers. "Most of them are former Khmer Rouge soldiers who put down their arms after we had peace in 1999.... They have experience fighting," he said.

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