The government will set up an administrative system at Anlong Veng similar to those in place at the prominent former rebel zones of Pailin and Malai, top government officials said Wednesday.
Pailin and Malai—which lie near Cambodia’s western border with Thailand—are both effectively controlled by former Khmer Rouge generals and have virtual autonomy.
Sok An, co-minister of cabinet and a top economic adviser to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the government implemented a successful policy following the 1996 mass defections at Pailin and Malai, and it will be used again at Anlong Veng.
“The government will do the same [in Anlong Veng] as it did for other areas in Pailin and Malai,” Sok An said at Olympic Stadium following a speech by Hun Sen.
In his address, the second prime minister told several thousand attendees that he has issued an order to “prepare the administration” in Anlong Veng.
“I am now issuing an order to the Defense Ministry, the General Staff, the Interior Ministry, police and authorities to do the integration as soon as possible,” he said. “I am appealing to [the Cambodian Mine Action Center] to destroy mines in those areas and divide lands for the people there so that they can begin a new life.”
Anlong Veng is mostly deserted now as thousands of civilians have escaped fighting around the town.
However, before a government-supported administration is set up at Anlong Veng, the area must be secured, top defector commanders said Wednesday.
“My duty now is to drive out the Ta Mok regime first before preparing an area for Anlong Veng people,” said Yim Phanna, who was the commander of rebel division 980 before he defected in late March. “The position of all defectors is to finish the civil war first.”
Yim Phanna and 70 other rebels attended Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Wednesday speech in the Olympic Stadium coliseum.
Yim Phanna—who played a key role in the mass defections from Anlong Veng in late March
—said he believes rebel chief of staff Ta Mok has about 300 loyal fighters holed up with him in the northern Dangrek Mountains.
Anlong Veng, the rebels’ headquarters for military operations for eight years, was delivered into government hands earlier this month following the defection of troops stationed there.
Defectors and a senior RCAF official confirmed that government or military positions have not been handed down to the defectors.
“They are still defectors,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dom Hak, director of military intelligence for the chiefs of RCAF General Staff.
High-ranking military officials said last week that Ke Pauk, the central zone commander of the 1975-1978 Democratic Kampuchea regime, had been in Phnom Penh seeking an audience with Hun Sen to secure a senior government post. It is likely he will receive a general’s rank in the army, they said.
However, the 68-year-old Ke Pauk said Wednesday he has not met with Hun Sen. It remains unclear if and when Ke Pauk will receive an official military or government appointment.
Scholars of the Khmer Rouge era have said Ke Pauk was a brutal commander and that evidence implicates him in crimes against humanity.
Ke Pauk denied the allegations March 30.
Ieng Sary, the highest-ranking Khmer Rouge official ever to defect and be welcomed by the government, was not granted an official government or military post. Instead, he is president of a political movement and lives now in Pailin.