T HE collapse of a deal to exile notorious Khmer Rouge chiefs Pol Pot, Ta Mok and
Son Sen and a Royal refusal to grant amnesty to two of them are believed to have
ignited the Anlong Veng in-fighting between the rebel leaders.
Pol Pot - the KR's supreme leader who has led the movement since its birth - appears
to have emerged the loser in a power-struggle with the KR's chief of general staff
Ta Mok, the rebels' most powerful military commander.
Mok, widely believed to retain control of the bulk of Anlong Veng's guerrilla forces,
is seeking an amnesty from the government, according to reliable sources.
The biggest question is whether Mok will be prepared to hand over Pol Pot to the
government in return for a pardon, providing that King Norodom Sihanouk can be persuaded
to grant one.
Khmer Rouge researchers, seriously entertaining the prospect that Pol Pot will be
handed over, are understood to be reviewing the evidence and potential witnesses
against the KR chief. The co-Prime Ministers, meanwhile, have sought the help of
the United Nations to establish an international tribunal to try Pol Pot.
Funcinpec, which initiated negotiations with Anlong Veng, to the ire of the Cambodian
People's Party (CPP), is pressuring the guerrillas to hand over Pol Pot, say diplomats
and party officials.
A key Funcinpec negotiator, General Nhek Bun Chhay, claimed to have personally seen
Pol Pot in Anlong Veng last Sunday. There has been no independent confirmation that
Pol Pot is still alive or, as is claimed by Funcinpec, that he is being held prisoner
in the KR base.
Funcinpec - loathe to be seen to be courting Mok, whose reputation for mass murder
is little better than Pol Pot's - is attempting to deal with more publicly acceptable
"intellectuals" within the rebel movement, party sources say.
The Anlong Veng ruptures turned bloody with the purported killings of the third member
of the leadership trio, KR Minister of Defense Son Sen, his wife Yun Yat and about
10 relatives. Son Sen and Yun Yat were apparently beaten and shot, and at least several
of their relatives run over by trucks, in the bloodletting - though observers as
high as Second Prime Minister Hun Sen have raised doubts that it happened.
It remains unproven who killed Son Sen, if dead he is, but Pol Pot reportedly fled
Anlong Veng. He fled in the direction of troops supposedly loyal to Son Sen, according
to one KR researcher, suggesting that it was not he - but more likely Ta Mok - who
ordered the killings.
The Anlong Veng crisis followed a Funcinpec negotiating bid to obtain defections
from Anlong Veng, the last main KR stronghold in Cambodia, according to party officials,
diplomats and researchers.
It is believed that Funcinpec proposed that Pol Pot, Ta Mok and Son Sen go into exile,
clearing the way for the defections and political reintegration of the remaining
The deal was eventually accepted by the KR, Funcinpec sources say, but collapsed
when no country was prepared to take them. China, Thailand and Laos were approached
but refused to accept the three into exile.
"They did not have the chance to be self-exiled," said a key Funcinpec
negotiator, General Nhek Bun Chhay, the deputy chief of general staff of the Royal
Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), on June 14.
An alternative option, that the three would be permitted to remain in a remote "safe
haven" in Cambodia, was effectively quashed by a June 9 statement by the King
opposing amnesty for Pol Pot and Ta Mok.
Labelling the pair "the biggest criminals in Cambodia," the King said he
would never grant an amnesty for them. He held open the prospect of granting amnesties
to other leaders, including Son Sen, if the Prime Ministers agreed.
The King's statement apparently angered the rebel leaders and left them questioning
Funcinpec's ability to secure them immunity from any action against them.
"We could have given them [Pol Pot and Ta Mok] some area in the jungle and let
them stay there, without any political involvement," said one senior Funcinpec
"No pardon for Pol Pot and Ta Mok by the King - that left them with a big problem,"
said one diplomat.
On the night of June 9, the day of the King's statement, a meeting of the movement's
leadership was called, according to Nhek Bun Chhay.
When Son Sen did not show up, troops were dispatched to kill him. There are conflicting
accounts of who ordered the murder and why, but the other leaders were reportedly
suspicious that Son Sen was negotiating with the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The killing has been widely blamed on Pol Pot, who reportedly fled toward the Thai
border northeast of Anlong Veng within hours of the killing.
Troops in that area, though under the control of Mok, are believed to be historically
loyal to Son Sen, according to Phnom Penh-based KR researcher David Ashley. "That's
one reason why Pol Pot wouldn't have been the one to kill Son Sen - why flee toward
Son Sen areas? It's our belief that Ta Mok killed Son Sen."
KR radio, broadcast from mobile transmitters in Anlong Veng, fell silent June 12.
It returned to the airwaves four days later with an unprecedented condemnation of
Pol Pot as a traitor to the rebel movement.
Further evidence of a Ta Mok-Pol Pot split have emerged with reports that Pol Pot
loyalists are leaving Anlong Veng, according to Ashley.
Troops from KR divisions 519 and 801, including some under the control of Pol Pot's
nephew So Hong, are reported to be fleeing Anlong Veng.
"Historically, they've never been under Ta Mok, unlike virtually every other
division up there."
The reasons for the apparent split between Pol Pot and Mok are unclear. Possibilities
include initial conflict on whether to accept the exile deal and disagreements over
the KR's strategy - particularly whether to pursue a switch in emphasis to political,
rather than armed, struggle - and who should lead it.
Of the suspected exile deal with Funcinpec, Ashley said: "It's certainly what
Funcinpec thought had been agreed. We don't know who agreed to it on the Khmer Rouge
side, and did they really agree to it? My inclination is that Pol Pot would never
agree to [exile]."
Fellow KR researcher Steve Heder said there are indications of divisions within the
younger KR generation who would take over from the KR leaders.
"My impression is that there was an attempt being made to have a smooth transition
of power from the older men to the younger men. It went wrong.
"It appears that the agreement of exile could not be implemented in practice.
It may be that they [Pol Pot, Ta Mok or Son Sen] did not agree with it, that they
pulled back, and those to whom power was going to be transferred are upset."
A Ta Mok deputy named Ngon was reportedly appointed to become the new chief military
cadre, and there was "significant unhappiness at Ngon's designation". In
particular, a senior Son Sen loyalist, Duol Saroeun, may have questioned Ngon's appointment.
On the KR political side, attention is focused on Khieu Samphan, head of the KR's
First Prime Minister and Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh has acknowledged
meeting Khieu Samphan, the rebels' nominal leader, in negotiations before the Anlong
Veng crisis erupted. CPP sources allege the meeting took place in Bangkok.
It appears that Funcinpec is attempting to negotiate defections led by Khieu Samphan,
and does not want Ta Mok to be officially part of the deal.
"It is very difficult for us to give amnesty to Ta Mok," said one Funcinpec
official. "That old man should be behind the scenes. Khieu Samphan should be
at the front. That would make it much easier."
Whether Samphan, closely-aligned to Pol Pot for decades, is willing to support Mok
is unclear. But Mok needed to work with Samphan to help negotiate an amnesty for
himself, the Funcinpec official said.
Khieu Samphan, according to Nhek Bun Chhay, is expected to announce soon the dissolution
of the KR's provisional government and declare support for a policy of "national
"It is their only chance to survive," said the Funcinpec official. "If
they are smart they would understand that."
Funcinpec is believed to be negotiating with three key KR officials, on the "intellectual"
side of the movement: Tep Khunnal, Mak Ben and Pech Bunreth. Several other rebel
cadre have reportedly been brought to Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen has opposed any role in politics for Khieu Samphan, and publicly told Ranariddh
to decide whether he wants to be in the government coalition or in the KR's provisional
"There is no question of integration or amnesty," Hun Sen said June 22,
adding that he would accept nothing but surrender from Anlong Veng. "This is
still a political game and I don't want to play this game as I am afraid to lose.
We can lose with anyone but not with Pol Pot. If we lose the game with Pol Pot, we
may risk the nation."
Funcinpec officials, in turn, claim that Hun Sen's objections to negotiations and
amnesties for KR leaders is hindering the handover of Pol Pot for an international
"If the Second Prime Minister agrees, it will be a 100% success and we will
just arrest Pol Pot, and send him to an international tribunal," said one Funcinpec