Defectors Await Ranks in RCAF Integration

The last step before integrating some 2,000 defecting Khmer Rouge soldiers into the government army is to decide which rank they will be designated, a senior defense official said Wed­nesday.

“We are still deciding who gets what rank: major, colonel, general, military police, police,” said Neang Phat, director of information for the Ministry of Defense. “Just like Pailin.”

An official ceremony integrating them into the RCAF will be held before the end of the month and perhaps as soon as next week, Neang Phat said. He noted that RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan is scheduled to fly today to northern Siem Reap province to meet with hundreds of the new defectors.

Analysts have said no more than 2,000 hard-line soldiers defected in March, but Neang Phat put the number at 2,400.

Once the defectors officially integrate with RCAF forces, they will have no choice but to follow orders to fight against Ta Mok, Neang Phat said.

But he declined to say what percentage of the defecting soldiers are opposed to fighting against the remaining hard-line Khmer Rouge.

He acknowledged that some of the recent defectors do not want to turn their guns on fighters loyal to Ta Mok, some of whom are their former neighbors.

“For now, if the defectors want to or don’t want to fight, either way is no problem for us,” Neang Phat said. “If they want to fight, we will send them to fight Ta Mok. If they do not want to, that is okay.”

Prince Norodom Ranariddh last week urged the government to have caution as it courts the Khmer Rouge based in Anlong Veng because, he claimed, they are supporters of Pol Pot.

“The people coming [to the government] from Anlong Veng are Pol Potists,” the prince said. “They are unhappy with Ta Mok because Ta Mok imprisoned Pol Pot.”

RCAF officials have said 3,000 government soldiers and 200 defectors are fighting in the vicinity of Anlong Veng.

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