Leaflets left by the resistance soldiers who allegedly killed two deminers and two of their children in a northwest Cambodian village Thursday night indicated the attack was in retaliation against government troops.
Sam Sotha, national director of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, said Sunday that the leaflets warned RCAF Division 7 to stop fighting or “you will pay consequences like this.” The resistance soldiers reportedly were commanded by General Lay Virak.
“This is totally unacceptable, for innocent people in a humanitarian organization to be killed,” Sam Sotha said. “I consider them terrorists like the Khmer Rouge. We need to bring them to an international court.” He said CMAC would help create an independent body to investigate the killings.
Sam Sotha’s comments came a day after he and CMAC Chairman Ieng Mouly flew to Boeung Trakuon village in Banteay Meanchey province to attend the funeral of the two deminers and their children, a 1-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl.
The four were killed when about 100 resistance soldiers stormed the area late Thursday night armed with assault rifles, grenades and B-40 rockets.
CMAC officials listed five as killed, including a villager, while RCAF General Meas Sophea reported six dead and nine seriously injured.
Sam Sotha stopped short of saying that CMAC was specifically targeted, but he noted that CMAC is a vulnerable group that has a no-weapons policy.
He described the events, which began at about 11 pm Thursday, as “two hours of terror.” Three deminers were taken hostage, but released at 5 am Friday, and two deminers and three family members were injured.
Meas Sophea, RCAF deputy chief of general staff of operations, said the resistance soldiers separately attacked the town market and the CMAC compound, while a third group cut off access to the road. About 60 houses were razed near the market.
Most of the casualties took place inside the CMAC compound. The injured were taken immediately across the nearby border to a Thai hospital.
The compound of The Halo Trust, another demining group, was confronted but not attacked.
Both CMAC and Halo Trust have withdrawn from the area while they assess the security risks. CMAC had six platoons working in the area totaling about 150 people, while Halo Trust said it had about 250 people.
This is but the latest in a rash of incidents in Banteay Meanchey province, where government and resistance forces reportedly are fighting for control of a cut of the lucrative border trade.
In March, resistance soldiers reportedly terrorized a town in Phnom Srok district, including a women’s silk-weaving NGO. There also have been reports of monks being kidnapped, villagers raped and other acts of terrorism.
Military analysts said Thursday night’s attack makes sense only if one assumes the soldiers are unpaid, hungry and desperate. But to kill innocent civilians as part of a military strategy to destabilize the area represents the lowest level of humanity, one analyst said.