KHMER Rouge divisional commander So Hong, a relative of Pol Pot, has reportedly joined
the government and may be advising on how to attack the KR stronghold of Anlong Veng
in the dry season.
Hong - until the ruptures within the KR leadership - was one of a younger generation
of guerrillas supposedly being groomed to take over the movement. He was mooted as
Pol Pot's possible designated successor.
Little has been heard of Hong since he reportedly fled the KR stronghold Anlong Veng
after the apparent overthrow of Pol Pot by Ta Mok in June. He and an unspecified
number of guerrillas were rumored to be attempting to make contact with Royal Cambodian
Armed Forces (RCAF) chiefs west of Anlong Veng.
General Sam (Ta) Bit, a former senior Khmer Rouge who is now an advisor to RCAF,
said this week that So Hong joined the government in the past three or four months.
Hong had been in Thailand, and then joined KR defectors in Samlot, south of Pailin,
but did not take part in their uprising against the government in August, said Sam
Bit did not know So Hong's current whereabouts, or if he held an official position
in the government, but said that the former KR division chief could prove invaluable
"I think he would be good to lead the way for RCAF to attack Anlong Veng because
he used to live there for a long time, and he knows the geography of the area well,"
Another source with historical links to the KR, who asked not to be identified, said
he had heard reports that Hong was in Phnom Penh as an advisor to RCAF on Anlong
Co-Minister of Defense Tea Banh declined to comment on Hong except to say: "He
has the idea [to join the government] but... let's wait until the story is finished.
"No, he has not been given any title yet. If we give him a position, we will
officially announce it for the public, like we did with [former Pailin and Phnom
Malai KR commanders] Ee Chhean and Sok Pheap... we have not prepared that yet,"
said Tea Banh.
According to KR researchers, So Hong is a distant nephew of Pol Pot, although Keo
Pong, another former senior KR, said this week that he thought Hong was Pol Pot's
Loyal to the KR supremo since the 1960s, Hong is believed to have political experience
- including under Ieng Sary in the Foreign Ministry during the Pol Pot regime - and
His appointement in 1995 or 1996 as chairman of the KR's political wing raised speculation
he was being groomed to take over from Pol Pot.
After Ta Mok's purging of Pol Pot in June, Hong is believed to have been among troops
from KR Divisions 519 and 801 - which, unlike most other divisions in northern Cambodia,
had never been under Ta Mok's control - who fled Anlong Veng.
There are widespread expectations of an imminent government dry season offensive
against Anlong Veng - which Hun Sen has vowed to capture - and also the Funcinpec
resistance bases of O'Smach and Samlot.
Meanwhile, in an apparent bid to break the backbone of the Funcinpec resistance,
Hun Sen this week extended an offer of immunity to its military leader Nhek Bun Chhay.
Bun Chhay, the top Funcinpec general ousted from capital in the July 5-6 fighting,
is the subject of arrest warrants issued in Phnom Penh. Now leading anti-government
guerrillas loyal to deposed Prince Norodom Ranariddh, he has forged a de facto alliance
with the Khmer Rouge.
Hun Sen claimed Dec 2 that Bun Chhay, who is based near Cambodia's northern border
with Thailand, had telephoned him recently. Hun Sen said he had offered to allow
the general to go "free" if he agreed to testify against Ranariddh on arms
smuggling and national security charges.
Resistance officials rejected Hun Sen's claims as propaganda, saying Bun Chhay had
never phoned him.
Intelligence sources said that CPP has made concerted attempts to negotiate with
Bun Chhay, including dispatching top general Pol Saroeun to meet him in Bankgok about
two weeks ago.
The resistance, in an apparent move to gain ground before a government dry-season
offensive - and add to political pressures on Hun Sen to negotiate with Ranariddh
- has claimed to have launched repeated attacks in recent days.
As well as bullets, the resistance and the Phnom Penh government traded a barrage
of claims and counter claims over recent fighting.
In a Nov 25 statement, the Funcinpec resistance claimed victory in attacks in Siem
Reap, Koh Kong and Battambang provinces.
It claimed that 80 of "Hun Sen's forces" had surrendered during fighting
near Wat Kralao, in Siem Reap's Angkor Chum district. Siem Reap first deputy governor
Neou Sam denied the claim, saying "there has not been any attacks in Angkor
The same resistance statement also claimed to have captured 50 enemy soldiers and
destroyed a tank and a tractor near Samlot, where a joint Funcinpec-KR force has
been battling government forces. In Phnom Penh, Tea Banh, the Defense Minister, dismissed
that report as untrue.
Finally, the resistance claimed to have captured the Chorbuoy area near Kbal Chay
in Koh Kong province, after fighting that killed 17 of Hun Sen's soldiers and injured
Rong Phlam Kesan, governor of Koh Kong, admitted that the resistance occupied Chorbuoy,
but said the government will recapture it soon. He rejected the resistance's claimed
casualty figures, though he acknowledged he didn't know how many government soldiers
were injured or killed.
Tea Banh, meanwhile, said Nov 27 that about 50 resistance fighters had defected to
the government in Samrong district, near O'Smach in Cambodia's far north.
Funcinpec resistance general Khan Savoeun said the next day that 51 "false troops"
- an apparent reference to infiltrators - who had joined the resistance two months
ago had now gone back to Hun Sen's side.
At Post press time, the resistance was also claiming to have captured areas of Banteay
Chhmar, in Banteay Meanchey province.