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RCAF ponders reductions while resistance remains entrenched

RCAF ponders reductions while resistance remains entrenched

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MARCHING TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE?

These soldiers at RCAF's Pich Nil training center might survive a demobilization drive, but thousands of others may go.

A MAJOR shake up for Cambodia's armed forces is being

mooted in the wake of the collapse of the Khmer Rouge and

new murmurs of peace from the resistance at O'Smach.

RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan told the Post that

he would be submitting draft legislation for army reform

to the new government.

Ke Kim Yan said that there were too many divisions in the

army - more than were approved by the general staff - and

in addition, it is not clear how many troops are attached

to each division.

He said it makes sense to reduce the size of the army,

given that the demise of the Khmer Rouge has led to a

decrease in fighting. He said a reduction would also

allow RCAF to concentrate on proper training for the

remaining troops and it would save the country money.

There is World Bank money available for the

demobilization of the armed forces. This money could be

tapped into once the new government has been installed

and deemed legitimate by the international community.

There can be little doubt as to the wisdom of reforming

the armed services.

RCAF has a tradition of poor pay which is often late,

inadequate equipment, rudimentary medical care and

training that could best be described as "on the

job".

However it remains to be seen whether the proposals will

be successful, given that RCAF has strong elements of

warlordism among its various commanders. It is hard to

imagine that any of them will be keen to see a reduction

in their power base.

And while the Khmer Rouge may no longer be the drain they

once were on the nation's military, the resistance in

O'Smach is still tying upgovernment forces.

However, the resistance, under general Nhek Bun Chhay,

said that it is prepared to negotiate a settlement once

the election result is confirmed. Part of any resistance

settlement would have to be a pardon for Bun Chhay, who

was convicted with Funcinpec President Prince Norodom

Ranariddh on weapons charges in March. Ranariddh was

pardoned by the King, but Bun Chhay was not.

So far, there has been no indication that a pardon for

Bun Chhay will be forthcoming.

Despite that, senior resistance leader Khan Savoeun said

that they would welcome a negotiated settlement to the

fighting with the government forces, but it will have to

await the new government.

He said they did not want to continue fighting, they just

wanted justice.

And Savoeun said that the resistance would be happy to

join up with RCAF again, even under the current

leadership.

He said that he had previously worked with Ke Kim Yan and

he liked the way he managed to maintain a middle position

rather than get involved in factional fighting.

As for the factions - identified in the main as having

Hok Lundy, Kun Kim, Sao Sokha, Keo Pong and Chea Sophara

on one side and Ke Kim Yan, Tea Banh and Chea Sim on the

other - Savoeun said he knows the strengths and

weaknesses of each but would not want to get involved.

However, he said he believed that the Chea Sim faction

was more in favor of a peaceful settlement than the

other, more Hun Sen-aligned faction.

He said that Hun Sen has been in power a long time, yet

he still has not been able to bring peace to the country.

Meanwhile one resistance commander at O'Smach, Choeun Ny,

said his troops would take their lead from Prince

Ranariddh.

He said if the Prince joins the government then they

would follow.

But with plans for a smaller RCAF there is no immediate

indication of what the O'Smach fighters' destination

might be.

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