The government continues to struggle to transform the former embattled Khmer Rouge zone of Anlong Veng into a place where people can develop their lives, an RCAF general acknowledged Tuesday.
Supporting the defectors has been expensive, said Meas Sophea, deputy chief of staff for RCAF general staff. He said the cash-strapped government continues to spend a lot of money on rice and living amenities for the thousands of defected Khmer Rouge soldiers and civilians in Anlong Veng.
“I don’t know how much it is but it was too much money for what we have paid for,” he bemoaned. “I have not made a list [of expenses] up yet.”
Some economists have in part blamed the devaluation of the riel and a national rice shortage on government spending for more than 2,000 defected Khmer Rouge soldiers and their families. NGOs in Anlong Veng are limited to two organizations, Meas Sophea said.
The National Election Committee, however, has made attempts there to register eligible defectors for elections. NEC spokesman Leng Sochea said Tuesday that almost 5,000 former rebels were registered last month—a feat unthinkable more than three months ago.
Despite independent and resistance claims of skirmishing on the border near Ta Tum camp, about 40 km northwest of Anlong Veng on the Thai border, Meas Sophea asserted that security there is stable and no fighting is occurring.
The UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday they had not received any reports of skirmishing in border areas near refugee camps in the Thai provinces of Si Sa Ket and Surin.
Foremost among the resettled civilians’ concerns has been the return of rebel chief of staff and head bogeyman Ta Mok. There are no reliable reports as to his whereabouts—except that his estimated 200 troops have not returned to wreak havoc on Anlong Veng.