Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Soldiers Disarmed Under Peace Accords Fear K.R. Attack




Soldiers Disarmed Under Peace Accords Fear K.R. Attack

Soldiers Disarmed Under Peace Accords Fear K.R. Attack

KOMPONG CHAM (AP)-Private Keo Sophal turned in his AK-47 assault rifle and reported to U.N.-supervised barracks

to comply with the peace accord, but he feels anything but secure with Khmer Rouge guerrillas roaming about outside.

"Everyone wants to come here to lay down their weapons. They don't want to fight," the 23-year-old soldier

said. "But all the soldiers are worried because not far from here the Khmer Rouge are gathering and they are

afraid they will come here. . .perhaps you know how the Khmer Rouge kill people."

Private Som Saven, 30, another government soldier who reported to barracks, expressed similar fears. "I

worry about the Khmer Rouge because now I have no weapon in my arms," he said.

On June 13, UNTAC began sending government and resistance troops into supervised cantonment sites as part of preparations

for the elections slated for next spring.

The government and two resistance groups have been cooperating with the operation, but they are nervous because

the hardline Marxist Khmer Rouge has boycotted it.

So far, only about 12,000 of the country's total 200,000 combatants have entered cantonment sites although the

process was originally scheduled to be completed July 11.

Many others are reluctant to do so until the Khmer Rouge-which claims to have 25,000 regulars-follows suit, U.N.

military officers say.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, leader of one of the non-Communist guerrilla groups, recently said he needed his soldiers

to protect civilians but was ready to immediately send all of them to barracks once the Khmer Rouge cooperate.

But at least some of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas disagree with their commanders, and this has prompted speculation

about the possibility of a wider division between the Khmer Rouge leadership and the rank and file.

U.N. officers say some Khmer Rouge soldiers have taken the risky step of expressing their readiness to enter

cantonments, although they added they first needed orders from superiors.

In mid-June a group of eight unarmed Khmer Rouge deserters fled to a cantonment site for government soldiers

in Kompong Cham city, about 45 miles northeast of Phnom Penh, said U.N. officers and government soldiers.

They were tired of being forced to fight, said Lt. Gamal Haryo Putro of the Indonesian force that supervises

and patrols the cantonment.

The lieutenant said that according to the deserters, a Khmer Rouge general killed a company commander who disobeyed

an order to stop trying to lead his men into a cantonment site north of Kompong Cham city. The men in the company

dispersed and a small group fled to the Kompong Cham cantonment.

"We fed them and gave them clothes," Gamal said. "They didn't have anything. They were 19 or

20, all very young, led by a lieutenant."

During a visit in June to the tree-shaded Kompong Cham cantonment, the atmosphere was very relaxed: Gamal and

other friendly Indonesian soldiers shared cigarettes with the government soldiers.

But the government soldiers in the cantonment live in squalid conditions, as they have throughout the war. Many

are crammed with their families in small dingy rooms in concrete longhouses, the floors split by large cracks,

the walls laced with spider webs. The babies suffer from diarrheal diseases.

Some of the soldiers complained of inadequate food and drinking water. Many leave the cantonment during the

day to get food or visit families outside. A large number of others register at the cantonment but leave and never

return, Indonesian officers said.

Last month UNTAC began weekly airlifts of rice and other food to the country's cantonment sites.

Because of the Khmer Rouge threat, UNTAC has modified the cantonment process and allowed Cambodian soldiers

to remain armed at the sites to defend themselves if needed. The government soldiers who had entered the Kompong

Cham cantonment have voluntarily put their weapons into an armory, however.

Inside the dark, dusty armory are reminders of the extent to which foreign countries have contributed to Cambodia's

bloodshed over the past 20 years-automatic rifles of Russian, Czech and U.S. manufacture, Vietnamese-made booby-trap-style

land mines, and Chinese-made mortars.

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