More than 5,000 Funcinpec loyalists are scheduled to be integrated today into the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces after two months of negotiation.
However, versions of why another 5,000 Funcinpec loyalists will not be integrated today in Samraong differ from party to party.
According to CPP Defense and military officials, only 5,011 troops were eligible for integration. The rest of about 10,000 troops, they said, are new recruits who were not part of RCAF prior to Funcinpec and the CPP falling into factional fighting in July 1997.
“The Royal Government is accepting only 5,011 into RCAF and other new recruits were not accepted,” said General Meas Sophea, deputy commander in chief in charge of the army and a CPP central committee member.
Khann Savoeun, Funcin-pec’s top armed forces official and a deputy commander in chief, said the full 10,000 force was halved after government protests over the sheer cost of integrating the soldiers.
“I don’t know of any government policy that says they must cut down to save money,” said Khann Savoeun, but further efforts to integrate all 10,000 soldiers will only result in a dispute.
Funcinpec sources said the men not integrated could drift into banditry. “I’m very worried about those people who were not accepted into the army,” said Khann Savoeun. “I’m afraid they could cause problems. I don’t know what they will do. I don’t know where they will go.”
Integrating the men now will head off problems that could arise down the road, a Funcinpec parliamentarian said.
However, Meas Sophea said he was not concerned about the soldiers who will not be integrated. “It is not serious. I think that we have laws. If they do wrong or break the law, justice will immediately crack down.”
This integration will be the fourth this month, after three separate integrations of what the RCAF claimed were nearly 3,700 Khmer Rouge soldiers.
The integration follows several incidents over the last two months of Funcinpec loyalists being arrested and accused of being recruited for an illegal army.