‘No Choice’ for Hard-Liners But to Fight, Says Guerrilla

Khmer Rouge forces have “no choice” but to continue fighting government troops, a top guerrilla commander said Sunday.

Khem Nguon said the government’s rejection of a peace plan would mean the fighting would drag on, Reuters reported.

“It means that Hun Sen wants to continue the war. He wants Cambodians to continue killing each other,” the senior officer said by telephone.

Khem Nguon said the rebels had proposed a peace deal last week, but Defense co-Minister Tea Banh later rejected the proposal as “worthless,” Reuters reported.

RCAF officers have said the hard-line Khmer Rouge were asking too high a price to defect. The government had no intention of offering the same deal to the An­long Veng guerrillas that was struck in 1996 with rebels in Pailin and Phnom Malai, according to officers. The defectors in the west were granted effective autonomy in ex­change for put­ting down their weapons.

RCAF General Neang Phat said Monday that the government wants peace for all of Cambodia, and he defended current fighting as necessary to regain territory that legally be­longs to the Phnom Penh government.

“The Khmer Rouge always want to fight,” said Neang Phat, the director of the Defense Min­istry’s information department.

Khem Nguon also told Reuters he believed his men would recapture Anlong Veng town “within one week.”

“Hun Sen’s soldiers and the defectors are only dug in in part of Anlong Veng, but I have my supporters all over the country,” he claimed.

The former rebel stronghold fell to government troops and rebel defectors earlier this month. It had been the central base for Khmer Rouge military operations for at least eight years.

Meanwhile, Tea Banh an­nounced last week that the ministry is ready to start organizing procedures for officially integrating defectors into the government forces, including providing food and security for soldiers and their families.

But he insisted that resistance troops loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh can not be integrated into the RCAF until the Min­istry of Defense is satisfied that no Khmer Rouge soldiers are part of those troops.

 

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