A band of Khmer Rouge fighters in Battambang province defected to the government last week, but top hard-line commanders in the area of Samlot district are stubbornly resisting RCAF overtures, top military officials said this weekend.
Iem Phan and Meas Muth, also known as Ta Muth, are dug in with forces near the Battambang-Pursat provincial border not far from Thailand, they said.
Pol Saroeun, an RCAF deputy chief of general staff, claimed Friday that more than 600 defecting civilians are expected to reach Treng village on foot this week, where they will officially join the government. Treng is on Route 10 halfway between Battambang town and Pailin.
Additionally, 175 soldiers under the leadership of guerrilla commander Yam Bunphon Yun decided to fight for the government on May 24, according to another top general, who asked not to be named.
It is possible that the largest remaining hard-line Khmer Rouge force is under the command of Iem Phan and Meas Muth, rather than in northern Cambodia near Anlong Veng under Ta Mok, political analysts have said.
Ek Som On, chief of staff for Battambang-based Military Region 5, said no more than 300 anti-government holdouts remain at Samlot. Pol Saroeun, however, said he hoped more than 500 rebel fighters at Samlot would soon join the government.
Pol Saroeun, instrumental in securing the 1996 mass defections at Samlot, Pailin and Phnom Malai, named the headquarters of the holdouts as Mountain 400, roughly 20 km south of Samlot village, but noted they had forces “spread in different areas.”
Ek Som On said RCAF troops have contained men loyal to Iem Phan and Meas Muth.