Ex-KR Leaders Incredulous at Hussein’s Fate

Former Khmer Rouge soldiers in Pailin on Monday expressed surprise over the US’ arrest of former Iraqi president Saddam Hus­sein, saying such an arrest would not have happened to their leaders. Pailin’s police chief Chea Chan­din, a former Khmer Rouge commander, said he watched in amazement the coverage of Hus­sein’s arrest on Thai television Sunday night.

“I did not think he could be ar­rested because he has controlled his country with such power and he was strongly supported by his people at the beginning [of his regime],” Chea Chandin said by telephone. He added that he was surprised anyone close to Hus­sein would have betrayed him by tipping off US forces.

The US military announced Hussein was captured Saturday night, hiding in a farmhouse cellar near his hometown of Tikrit. Officials said a relative from his clan provided information leading to Hussein’s whereabouts.

“For the Khmer Rouge leaders, we fought with Americans and Vietnam, but they were not ar­rested because we were all loyal to them,” Chea Chandin said.

He added that top leaders of the Khmer Rouge continued to receive public support after the Pol Pot-led regime was toppled in 1979, as many of them later joined the government.

“They ceased the war and de­fected to the government to live in peace. That’s why they have strong support from the people,” he said.

Pailin’s cabinet chief Mey Makk, another former Khmer Rouge commander, also said he believed Hussein’s downfall resulted from a lack of loyal followers.

“I think Hussein’s strategy is not right, especially maybe he does not have much public support,” Mey Makk said. “If he wanted to prevent the arrest or attack by enemies, he must have public support and strategy.”

He added: “If we didn’t have this [after the Khmer Rouge re­gime], we would have been ar­rested easily.”

Meanwhile, Lath Nhoung, a Pailin municipal official and former Khmer Rouge soldier, said he was saddened by the news of Hussein’s arrest. “It is sad to see his picture. He should not be arrested because what he’s doing is for his country,” Lath Nhoung said. “He looks very gentle and his attitude is not aggres­sive. He does not look horrifying.”

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