About 120 former Funcinpec soldiers were temporarily de-tained Tuesday in Kompong Cham town after the group tried to re-join RCAF forces.
Two of the leaders were still in custody Friday, accused of illegally recruiting an army, according to military and provincial authorities.
The men were former RCAF soldiers loyal to Funcinpec and had fled from their units after the July 1997 factional fighting, according to Khann Savoeun, deputy commander of RCAF general staff and former resistance leader. He said the men were simply gathering as part of the government’s ongoing reintegration efforts.
“They were going back…in order to regroup for counting, but they were arrested,” Khann Savoeun said.
This marks the second time in a month that men claiming to be former Funcinpec soldiers were detained by government authorities. In early January, eight resistance fighters were arrested by Kompong Chhnang provincial police and detained for five days in Phnom Penh.
The men were accused of harboring an illegal army on the border of Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, but were later released for lack of evidence. The men claimed they were planning to reintegrate their troops into government forces.
In this week’s case, the soldiers had gathered at a house in Kom-pong Cham town. Provincial police arrested them and took them to Military Region 2 before releasing most of them later in the day.
“The principle of RCAF doesn’t allow for the recruitment of a new army,” said Meas Sophea, commander of RCAF general staff, who termed the men “illegal” soldiers.
Provincial authorities released all but three of the former soldiers and told them to return to their homes in Takeo, Kampot and Kompong Speu provinces, Kom-pong Cham Governor Hun Neng said Friday.
“They are the bad people of Funcinpec, but now they have run away,” Hun Neng said.
The governor alleged the group was planning to reintegrate into RCAF before being posted to Kratie province. There, he claimed, they hoped to receive a substantial sum of money when the government downsizes its armed forces.
One of the three leaders, who was released later in the day, told the human rights group Adhoc that his two colleagues were still in handcuffs at the military region base when he left.
The names of the men in custody were not released, but one was identified as a former resistance commander, according to an Adhoc investigator. Meas Sophea said the pair possessed false identity papers.
Khann Savoeun denied all charges that the men were illegally recruiting an army, and maintained they were former soldiers seeking their legitimate posts.