Capital Meeting Marks Defectors’ Transition

Little more than a week after they walked out of the jungle and into the government fold, five senior Khmer Rouge technocrats came to Phnom Penh to dine with Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“He said that we must let by­gones be bygones and think about the future,” former rebel ambassador Mak Ben told re­porters at a press conference Sun­day, the day after the historic meeting.

“We expressed our gratitude because he has welcomed our return to the national community in Cambodia,” added Chan You­ran.

The five, described as the “intellectuals” of the rebel movement, arrived in the former rebel zone of Pailin on June 11 and were formally inducted into the government fold in a televised ceremony two days later.

They were accompanied to Phnom Penh by Pailin chief Ieng Sary, who is widely suspected of having cut a deal with the five to bring them over to the government side.

But Ieng Sary remained mum Sunday when asked whether he had been involved in securing the defections. Chan Youran insisted the five had defected of their own free will and had chosen Pailin to do so because of their past connections with Ieng Sary.

Chan Youran said they had journeyed from Anlong Veng “through the forests and mountains” to reach Pailin, but denied they had ever crossed into Thai territory, as Cambodian military officials believe.

The last time they saw rebel commander Ta Mok, he said, was two months ago in Anlong Veng. Since then, he said, none of the five had been in contact with the Khmer Rouge leadership, including political leader Khieu Sam­phan.

Chan Youran also vehemently denied suggestions that they are involved in alleged negotiations to bring Khieu Samphan into the government, or that they discussed the matter with Hun Sen.

“Khieu Samphan is a good leader,” he said. “He is recognized by many people, but we didn’t discuss anything about his defection or about handing over Ta Mok and Nuon Chea to the government.”

As for the future, the defectors said they were looking forward to casting their first-ever votes in the elections. “We have our vote pass in Pailin,” said Chan Youran proudly.

Mak Ben then rummag­ed through his pockets and produced his brand-new voter registration card for the cameras.

In the more immediate future, Mak Ben said the five planned to spent a few more days in the capital, “sightseeing, seeing the new developments in the city.”

When asked whether he would visit the Tuol Sleng museum of genocide crimes, Mak Ben shifted in his chair.

“As I said to you before, we should let bygones be bygones and look to the future,” he said.

 

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