Top military officials Sunday confirmed the second group defection in two weeks of Khmer Rouge troops aligned with hard-liners in the rebel jungle stronghold of Anlong Veng.
Deputy Chief of RCAF General Staff Meas Sophea said that 78 guerrillas from Khmer Rouge Division 801, including their commander, defected to the government last week.
The RCAF gave the defectors rice seed, oxen, ox carts and motorbikes for switching sides, according to Meas Sophea, who traveled to the area to greet the defecting soldiers.
The tally of hard-line defectors in the last two weeks now totals close to 200, Meas Sophea said. The latest group of 78 are being settled in Choam Khsan district in Preah Vihear province, 40 km east of Anlong Veng.
The previous week, 99 Khmer Rouge soldiers left the guerrillas’ Anlong Veng stronghold for Angkor Chum district in Siem Reap.
About two weeks ago, more than 100 resistance soldiers loyal to deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh defected from Preah Vihear province.
For up to three months, the government has been pumping pro-government propaganda into resistance and Khmer Rouge-controlled zones to convince the anti-government armed forces to defect. In some cases, the government has flown airplanes over rebel areas, dropping flyers with pictures and signatures of earlier defectors asking their comrades to follow them.
Meas Sophea said he believes 300 hard-line Khmer Rouge guerrillas remain in Anlong Veng.
One military analyst speculated that the success of the propaganda campaign casts doubt on the likelihood of a government assault on the Khmer Rouge jungle base believed to be under the command of Ta Mok.
Meanwhile, an Agence France-Presse dispatch from Bangkok quoted Thai military officers as saying “sporadic skirmishes” have been noted around the northern resistance stronghold of O’Smach in the past week.