General Says 200 Rebels Will Defect

A top armed forces general said Tuesday that he expects about 200 hard-line Khmer Rouge troops and their families to defect to government-controlled Anlong Veng within several days.

The band of rebels have ag­reed in recent negotiations to defect in return for a government promise to solve their food shortages, said Preap Tann, a one-star general in charge of the armed forces’ psychological operations and civilian affairs.

The troops are part of 10,000 civilians living in an area along the Thai-Cambodian border west of Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province, Preap Tann said.

Some fled their homes in An­long Veng in March and April when a mass rebel mutiny and a government offensive drove hard-liners out of their command post of eight years.

RCAF Deputy Chief of General Staff Pol Saroeun, also a top CPP official, said Monday that the army is sending a helicopter to Anlong Veng this week, although he did not disclose the reason for the flight.

Ke Kim Yan, chief of RCAF general staff, said Tuesday he did not know about any new defections. He said the government has not conducted negotiations, only public appeals in hope of luring more Khmer Rouge rebels out of the jungles.

A military analyst on Tuesday said the defection of 200 rebels and their families would represent “the last element in the north” of hard-line forces.

The whereabouts of hard-line chief of staff Ta Mok are un­known, although one intelligence source placed him at the threecornered area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Cambo­dia’s borders converge.

(Report­ing by Touch Rotha, Marc Levy and Chris Decherd)

 

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