Rebel Radio Silenced; Are Rebels Next?

Military officials said the Khmer Rouge radio station was des­troyed Tuesday evening, and the clandestine transmitter’s failure to broadcast Wednesday ap­peared to serve as a silent confirmation.

“I’m reasonably sure they have managed to capture and destroy the station. If you put two and two together, it’s probably finished,” a military analyst said Wednesday.

RCAF Deputy Chief of Staff Meas Sophea gave the order to destroy the equipment Tuesday night after hard-line defectors had captured the equipment. The radio was believed to be mounted on the back of a pickup truck.

“I asked them to destroy the radio [Tuesday] night,” he told Agence France-Presse, referring to the defectors.

Chea Saran, RCAF deputy chief of staff, said soldiers once loyal to hard-line leader Ta Mok attacked the station, then defected to the government. The transmitting equipment was later destroyed with an AK-47, he said.

He claimed the transmitter was destroyed in a place called Ban Sra Ngam, which is on Thai soil.

Chief government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told Deutsche Presse-Agentur early Wednesday that the government had asked the Thai military to destroy the transmitter.

“Before yesterday [Monday], we asked the cooperation of the Thai army to seize the radio station or destroy the radio station. These are the two options we proposed to them,” he said.

The Thai Embassy denied that the military had destroyed the radio equipment and said the transmitter was in Cambodian territory, according to DPA.

Another military analyst said the capture of the radio, which has beamed daily doses of anti-government and anti-Vietnamese propaganda to all corners of the nation, is a significant blow to the rebel movement.

“That’s a good sign,” said the analyst, who asked not to be named. “If the radio is finished, that’s the beginning of the end [for the hard-liners].”

The rebels have had a presence on the airwaves since the early 1970s, after China began supporting the movement. The broadcasts emanated from China before the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. Since 1994, the station had been in Anlong Veng.

The station is not believed to have ever gone off air except in extreme cases of tumult within the secretive movement, according to Agence France-Presse. The last time it ceased transmitting was for three days last June when Ta Mok supplanted Pol Pot as leader after a bloody purge, AFP noted.

The military analyst added that the broadcasts served as a significant propaganda tool for the hard-liners, who have been under as­sault from the RCAF and de­fec­t­ors for the past month. Broad­casts helped boost troop morale, and now that has ended, he said.

“[The end of the broadcast] also stops the Western press and others such as The Cambodia Daily from printing propaganda,” the analyst added.

The other analyst agreed that the hard-liners had lost a key propaganda tool. But he didn’t agree that the movement was completely dead. “I would suggest that what we have been seeing in the last fortnight has culminated. It doesn’t mean the movement is dead. But its ability to interfere in the elections ceases to exist en­tirely,” he said.

Both analysts agreed that the radio’s apparent demise has curtailed the hard-liners’ ability to communicate with sympathizers remaining in other parts of the country. Both speculated that the broadcast may have been used to send secret messages to operatives countrywide, a method used by organizations such as the BBC in World War II. (Addi­tional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)

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