Trees testimony to fall of rebels

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 April, 1998, 12:00am

Millions of dollars worth of felled trees lie rotting across the Khmer Rouge's last territory - silent testimony to the death throes of the movement.

In the border hamlet of Srabua, close to the safe-houses of its leaders and where Pol Pot died last week, vast piles of giant logs rise from jungle clearings.

'We may be in close touch, but they know we will not break sanctions preventing their export,' one Thai military source said.

'They are worthless, but the Khmer Rouge have still been cutting new ones down until recently.

'All the best ones, the teaks and the other hardwoods, have been cut.' Anlong Veng, the recently sacked capital of the Khmer Rouge, is dotted with similar piles of lumber.

Sanctions banning the export of Cambodian lumber were imposed by the United Nations and, slowly but surely, the loss of revenue has hit the movement.

Now supplies of food, water and medicine are at critical levels, particularly among the 10,000 villagers massing around the Thai border behind Khmer Rouge defences, intelligence sources said.

'We believe in the last days when the fighting grew intense, not even Pol Pot could get the proper medicines he needed,' they said.

Rough camps could been seen in clearings dotted inside the border, containing houses of brick, timber and iron.

Ancient military equipment rusted away next to dark green school buses with barred windows. Soldiers and children wandered about in uniforms and threadbare civilian clothes.

However, little evidence of severe malnutrition could be seen. Even the pigs looked well fed.

Previously, the Thai military played a key role in providing a market for the logs - as well as gems - providing a lifeline for the Khmer Rouge in the past few years.

Relations still appear strong, with the border marked by many dusty trails and roads.