Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Murmurs of unrest in northwest

Murmurs of unrest in northwest

Murmurs of unrest in northwest

BATTAMBANG Human rights workers here are warning that

Khmer

Rouge defectors, unhappy with the government and the

recent election, are being called upon to take up arms

again.

There are also signs of dissent in Pailin and rumors that

the stability of the northwest of the country is shaky.

Rights workers say that messages purporting to be from

Khieu Samphan are circulating in Samlot, Sampoeloun and

Phnom Prik, telling people they have been cheated and to

return to the jungle.

Even if the calls are bogus, rights workers say that they

are unsettling defectors, leading them to believe they

have an option other than staying with the government.

One local rights worker said that some defectors were

seriously considering the call, particularly those who

had been threatened by the police or army following the

election because they did not vote for the CPP.

"For example in Phnom Prik, where they voted for Sam

Rainsy, the Government has put pressure on them with

threats and intimidation forcing them to move away,"

he said.

A senior Battambang provincial official said he had heard

of the approaches and had also heard of offers of $250

cash for each family returning to the rebels.

While the report says that the messages are being passed

in the name of Samphan, there is no confirmation that he

is behind the call.

It is, indeed, unlikely given that recent defector Tep

Khunnal has reportedly said that Samphan is being held

hostage by Ta Mok.

But the Battambang human rights worker said it did not

really matter who was behind the call.

What was important was that the defectors believed it was

Samphan.

He said Samphan was still popular among the defectors who

see him as more moderate and reasonable than Ta Mok.

"Most of the KR defectors are with Samphan even if

their bodies are on the Government side," he said.

A UN rights worker in Phnom Penh said that it was hardly

surprising that elements of the KR were trying to gear

the movement up again.

He said that the KR never had a firm grip on reality and

the few who remained probably sincerely believed that

they could rise again, no matter how ridiculous that

seemed to those outside the movement.

KR defector Im Sopheap said there was no chance that the

KR

could rise again, saying: "the KR is finished".

Region Five military commander Ko Chhean said that the

only

problem with the defectors had been that some of them

moved to avoid the fighting in their areas, particularly

Samlot.

He said that they were generally happy and settled.

However this was not the view of defectors spoken to by

the Post.

One of them was bitter that the government had reneged on

its promise to provide land and houses for them.

He said the government had only looked after the leaders

in Pailin and not the ordinary people.

The human rights worker said this was a common theme

among

the defectors. Even in Pailin, which is seen as stable,

there are similar grumbles which is a worrying sign.

"This kind of unrest could destabilize Pailin. The

CPP have bought the top people in Pailin but they could

not buy the bottom people."

Authorities in the areas have dismissed the claims that

there are any problems with the defectors.

Sampoeloun district governor Chum Sib said that some

people

from the KR had defected to him but none of his people

had returned.

Meanwhile in Pailin there is an apparent rift in the

governing of the autonomous zone between Ieng Sary and Ee

Chhean.

Sources within Pailin's provincial leadership said that

Ee Chhean's approval for a casino and brothels in the

town was opposed by Sary.

The source said that the ordinary people in Pailin were

angry with the casino and the brothels and claimed that

they had brought crime into the town.

The source also said the Sam Rainsy Party victory in

Pailin could be attributed to dissatisfaction with the

government, which they believe had promised them much but

had not followed through.

Meanwhile in Battambang itself human rights workers said

that things had been relatively quiet on the surface,

even during the period of demonstrations in Phnom Penh.

However they said there had been calls for demonstrations

in Battambang too but police and military there had been

too well organized and managed to thwart those plans.

A Funcinpec provincial government official said that the

police had confiscated ICOM radios from party workers to

stop them being able to organize a demonstration.

He said police had trained 100 officers in riot control

and then made it clear to opposition officials that they

would use them against demonstrators.

Currently Adhoc and Vigilance human rights workers are

investigating the seizure of the radios and other threats

of violence, but neither group was prepared to comment

till their inquiries were completed.

UN rights workers are investigating 32 cases of torture

in the area but they also said that their investigations

are not complete.

A Region 5 RCAF officer, Koy Dok, said his men had

confiscated some radios from Funcinpec officials but it

was to prevent them inciting trouble when the

demonstrations were on in Phnom Penh.

He also confirmed that the police had trained a riot

control squad.

But he was bemused at the amount of attention that was

being given by human rights workers to the demonstrators.

Nor could he understand the media's interest in it.

When it was suggested to him that the photographs and

footage of monks being beaten and kicked had provoked

outrage he and three of his soldiers became very

animated.

"I saw that on TV, they weren't monks," he

said. One of the

soldiers added: "One of them was a soldier up here.

"He was Prince Ranariddh's bodyguard, he wasn't a

monk!"

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