Two main captains who took up arms against government forces in 1997 have been assigned new RCAF posts, but they will not command troops in the new army structure, officials said this week.
Resistance commanders Lay Virak and Long Sereyrath were integrated in a Monday ceremony at the armed forces’ High Command headquarters.
The ceremony reassigned or promoted a total of 94 generals as RCAF undergoes a restructuring.
The new structure of the armed forces is still under construction, although one official said there could be more than 30 departments under the commander in chief—about three times as many as in the old structure.
Thirty-nine new general’s stars were handed out Monday as Lay Virak and Long Sereyrath were assigned to Phnom Penh departments and removed from direct command of troops.
“They wanted to remain in their old jobs as before, but for the sake of national reconciliation, the new commander in chief [Ke Kim Yan] felt that he wanted them close to him,” said co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath.
The government army has blamed Lay Virak for ordering village burnings and attacks in the northwest since July 1997.
Ke Kim Yan said the transfers were necessary because Lay Virak’s Division 12 and Long Sereyrath’s Division 14 had been downsized as part of the military’s restructuring.
Samlot’s deputy resistance commander Iem Phan received a promotion from division commander to a deputy head of Military Region 5.
“We have to put [Iem Phan] to the test to see how sincere he will be in his loyalty to the government and the commander in chief,” Prince Sirirath said.
Long Sereyrath, Lay Virak and Iem Phan took their divisions back to guerrilla warfare after then-first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh was ousted by coalition partner Hun Sen in July 1997. (Additional reporting by Phann Ana)
’s factional fighting.
Lay Virak was based in the Banteay Chhmar area, Long Sereyrath was in the northern border bastion of O’Smach and Iem Phan was in the western border district of Samlot.