Top security officials in Battambang province have confirmed that anti-government operatives are recruiting people to join border-area forces, but they downplayed the effectiveness of the efforts.
Chan Kosal, the province’s police chief, said Wednesday that anti-government forces are trying to take advantage of economic hardships plaguing many villagers.
“There has been activity to persuade people to go serve soldiers at the border,” Chan Kosal said by telephone from the northwestern province. “It is easier for the clandestine forces to persuade people to go to the border…while the country is in upheaval and has social problems.”
He said efforts seemed to increase after the August demonstrations in Phnom Penh.
Ek Som On, chief of staff for the Battambang-based Military Region 5, said last week that Khmer Rouge and resistance propaganda encouraging people to return to the jungle is not new.
“This has been an ongoing thing up to now, but it’s only a propaganda tactic,” the CPP-appointed colonel said last week. “[A new resistance army] doesn’t really exist. It’s just propaganda.”
The government army will continue to counter the propaganda by encouraging people not to go to the border, Ek Som On said, adding anti-government forces were not growing in size.
Military Region 5 commander Ko Chean last week visited parts of Banteay Meanchey province to combat anti-government recruitment efforts and Po Saran, a deputy commander for the military region, recently made stops in former Khmer Rouge zones including Pailin and Phnom Malai to reinforce links in the areas, a government source said.
“The army is concerned about this,” he said, adding that villagers have reported men being offered $100 to go to the border.
Meanwhile, the Sam Rainsy Party has rebutted a Khmer-language press report Tuesday suggesting that its members should flee to the border to join the resistance army opposing Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
A Rainsy party statement on Wednesday said that comments by an unnamed party “security” official cited in a story by Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia) did not reflect party policy.
“We would like to inform the public as well as Sam Rainsy Party members that the party always promotes democracy and the use of nonviolence,” the Sam Rainsy statement said.
The statement added that the party does not take responsibility for members who “act contrary to the principle of the party.”
In an article headlined “Order to Go to the Border to Build Up Forces,” Rasmei Kampuchea cites the Sam Rainsy party official as saying that party members who have experienced political intimidation should flee to the border.
The paper also cited an unnamed source in Thailand and an unnamed soldier in the resistance border stronghold of O’Smach as claiming that hundreds of armed resistance supporters are gathering along the Cambodian border.
The unnamed party official denied that party members are being armed on the border, the newspaper reported.