Holdout’s Defection Requires Wider Effort
pailin – If hard-line Khmer Rouge holdout Khieu Samphan wants to defect to the government, he is not getting help from former guerrilla leaders here, according to a top municipal official.
Ieng Vuth, Pailin’s second deputy governor, said Saturday that he has not asked the central government to “leave the door open” for Khieu Samphan, regarded as one of the key architects of Pol Pot’s failed attempt to create an agrarian utopia.
Ieng Vuth earlier this year asked RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan to allow Samlot rebels to defect and this month the last of the remaining Samlot hard-liners were welcomed in a defection ceremony.
But Ieng Vuth said in an interview at Pailin City Hall that he has not lodged the same request with Phnom Penh on behalf of Khieu Samphan.
“I myself cannot do that alone,” said Ieng Vuth. “It would take many more people than me” to successfully lobby the government to allow Khieu Samphan to defect.
Instead, his conversations with Phnom Penh officials have centered on “ending the war in Cambodia.”
The government has finally claimed total victory over the Khmer Rouge with the defections earlier this month of the last armed hard-line units. However, at least three men instrumental in the failed policies of Pol Pot’s brutal 1975-78 regime remain free: Khieu Samphan; hard-line military chief Ta Mok; and ideological czar Nuon Chea.
Om Yen Tieng, a top adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said last week that it was unlikely the government would offer a pardon and defection deal to Khieu Samphan. But he said if Khieu Samphan was able to help capture his two at-large colleagues the government would look favorably on the gesture.
“One should not be hopeless that Khieu Samphan cannot produce an achievement in arresting Ta Mok and Nuon Chea,” Om Yen Tieng said. “He doesn’t have troops, but it’s still possible.”
However, Pailin’s Cabinet chief, Mei Meakk, said that Khieu Samphan does not have the power to arrest Ta Mok or Nuon Chea. “It is impossible that Khieu Samphan can arrest [them],” said Mei Meakk, a longtime aide to Pol Pot before defecting in 1996.
Khieu Samphan cannot defect to the government without a royal amnesty from a 1995 law outlawing him and other Khmer Rouge leaders as criminals. He is believed to be with Ta Mok and Nuon Chea somewhere along the Thai-Cambodia border.
Pailin officials said they do not communicate with Khieu Samphan, although Ieng Vuth said that he hears news of Khieu Samphan through Thai traders who come to Pailin.
“But we don’t know where he is and we have no literal relationship with him.” said Ieng Vuth.
Pailin officials said that Khieu Samphan has many close friends in Pailin, which is host to other Khmer Rouge intellectuals and leaders, including Ieng Vuth’s father, former Khmer Rouge deputy premier Ieng Sary.
“During the struggle regime, [Khieu Samphan] used to be close to [Pailin Governor] Y Chhien,” said Mey Mann, a former Khmer Rouge intellectual.
Mei Meakk said Khieu Samphan is well known in the former rebel strongholds of Malai and Pailin, and “has no other place to go” if he is amnestied.The trio has been at large since May, when a combined force of RCAF and defected rebel troops ousted hard-liners from the northern 200 Mountain stronghold.
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