Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Peace-clearer in Siem Reap prefers hoe to the gun



Peace-clearer in Siem Reap prefers hoe to the gun

Peace-clearer in Siem Reap prefers hoe to the gun

SIEM REAP - For peace to be restored in Cambodia, it will take an unspecified period

of time and loss of life despite peace negotiations apparently taking precedent over

fighting between the government and the KR .

That was the view in Siem Reap province of a group of mine-clearers composed of former

soldiers from different factions who used to be battlefield enemies.

"Now peace depends on the KR because they are still in the jungle," said

Vann, 36, a former soldier of KPNLF. He refused to give his full name.

"KR were the first to start the fire and now they are afraid to put it out,"

he added.

The "fire" he referred to was the KR regime between 1975-79.

Speaking after a day of clearing mines near the Angkor complex, some of the deminers

expressed their feelings about a 13 year jungle alliance with the guerrillas during

the Vietnamese occupation.

One of Vann's colleagues, lying on a stretcher at the mouth of a tent, interrupted

the conversation.

"Let's forget about the friends we made with them (KR). It would be better if

they were just got rid of," he said.

They seemed confused when asked who benefited from the civil war.

Loeun Soeun, 21, who was a KPNLF guerrilla fighter in Thmar Puok until after the

peace plan, said: "I prefer carrying a hoe to sleeping with a gun in the jungle."

He said the reason he become a deminer six months ago was that now he managed to

make ends meet without any problem, although he has not been able to save any of

his monthly $160 salary.

"My life has been more normal than it was in the jungle where sometimes there

was no food, no medicine," said Soeun.

Vann continued the conversation, puffing on a Marlboro Light cigarette. He said he

believed the main objective of the government's military operation was "to eliminate

bad people in order to provide peace and freedom to the whole nation".

The deminers said they did not know which tactic would work with the KR-peace-talks

or fighting.

Vann doubted the KR were sincere, that they wanted peace after coming into the new

government.

"I hate the KR. You can never trust their thinking or belief at all. I'm sure

about this, because I used to stay with them in the jungle. Power is their only purpose

and they don't know how to live in peace," he said.

He did not think that fighting would end in the near future, "because to let

them (KR) come in means to share power with them. If so they will, one day, step

by step, turn Cambodia into another Champa, which no longer has a country".

When asked if there were Vietnamese soldiers in the country, Vann smiled and said:

"Yes, a lot of Vietnamese people."

Vann said in his opinion it was better to fight the KR than pursue the government

policy of negotiating with them.

He was optimistic the new government would succeed and hoped all parties would continue

cooperating for the sake of the nation.

He hailed the government's amnesty campaign for KR rank and file soldiers. "For

ordinary people like me, it's difficult to distinguish who is good and who is bad.

Of course, among the four regimes in the past, the Khmer Rouge's was the worst,"

he said.

"But, if all Khmer can figure out how to unite the nation, I appreciate the

ideal very much, that is the best way."

"The policy-makers should mend fences, so I can have a piece of land for rice

farming to feed my family. If they can't, we will continue to face war which we all

hate," he said.

As for the rest of the deminers who remained less talkative, they just shook heads

in agreement when Vann had nothing more to share.

His final thought, was that the key leading to peace is in the pockets of the big

politicians, especially the KR.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian