Bangkok blacklists Khmer Rouge trio
Thai leaders have moved to curb the Khmer Rouge leadership's once unfettered access to their country.
The genocidal movement's nominal leader, Khieu Samphan, its top ideologue Nuon Chea - who surrendered to the Government in Phnom Penh on Christmas Day - and the group's military chief, Ta Mok, who is still at large, have been formally placed on an Immigration Department blacklist.
The order means the trio will be arrested if caught on Thai soil.
'The highest levels of this Government are embarrassed and fed up with the Khmer Rouge problem and we don't want to be associated with it,' one senior official said.
'This move sends a formal message to any officials lower down the chain who may have still been in contact, particularly those in border areas.' It also closes a loophole. Previously, Thailand had stated the trio would be arrested if they tried to enter the country 'illegally'.
That policy worked on the assumption that even if they tried to enter through a checkpoint, their old Democratic Kampuchea passports, dating from the movement's brutal three-year rule of Cambodia from 1975, would not be valid.
Now there is the prospect of the Khmer Rouge leadership getting fresh passports as they rebuild their relationship with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
'If they suddenly turned up with fresh documents, it could put us in a very embarrassing position,' another source said. 'We have closed the door on that.' The situation is being closely watched by foreign diplomats in case the United Nations demands the trio's arrest to face trial for crimes against humanity.
It is widely thought that any successful arrest mission would involve US agents working through Thailand.
Privately, some fear surviving Khmer Rouge brass still have access to Thai border areas through once-close links with senior military officials who are powerful enough to ignore government policy.
A senior officer at the main immigration checkpoint on the Thai-Cambodian border and immigration officials at Bangkok's international airport said yesterday they were unaware of an arrest or blacklist order.
'So far we have not received any order from our superiors to put these people on a blacklist,' said Major Choosak Panashumporn, commander of the main Thai-Cambodian border checkpoint in the town of Aranyaprathet.
All three leaders are thought to be living in Pailin, a town, controlled by Khmer Rouge defectors, on a notoriously porous stretch of the Thai-Cambodian border.
Officials in Pailin claim both Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea regularly slip across to shop and dine in Thailand.