• Short Summary

    Thai and Chinese businessmen are conducting brisk across-border trading with Khmer Rouge forces from Cambodia.?

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    Thai and Chinese businessmen are conducting brisk across-border trading with Khmer Rouge forces from Cambodia. Visnews Thailand correspondent, Alex So, found a large group of traders from Thailand at a border crossing point near the Thai town of Aranya Prathet on Wednesday (21 April).

    According to So, the border point is a regular meeting place between representatives of up to 50 Thai companies and the Khmer Rouge, where secret deals are struck for the sale of rice and salt from Thailand although Cambodia has claimed a record rice crop. In exchange, the Khmer Rouge offer dried fish - apparently the only commodity they have in any quantity to barter with.

    However, a major reason for the rendezvous on Wednesday was demands by the businessmen for the Khmer Rouge to settle what they claimed was the "huge debt" the Khmer Rouge have run up in the past four months. The traders are insisting on being paid in cash but the Cambodian authorities have, according to Reuters, abolished hard currency and operate entirely by a crude system of barter. Cameraman So quoted the traders as saying the barter of dried fish indicated the critical state of the Cambodian economy.

    Despite the apparent cash problem, So observed that trading continued and apparently in secret -- across a narrow wooden bridge hidden from the border checkpoint -- and just out of sight of the guards on the main bridge several metres (yards) away.

    So was forced to film discreetly. On Monday (19 April), a Japanese freelance television news cameraman, Mr. Naoki Mabuchi, crossed the border into Cambodia at the same point and was seized by Khmer Rouge soldiers. Reuters say that he has not been heard of since.

    The incident reflects the reportedly harsh government now ruling Cambodia from the capital, Phnom Penh which celebrated its first anniversary as a Communist ruled state on Friday, the 17 April. The anniversary followed the resignation of Prince Norodom Sihanouk as head of state. The Prince was replaced by Mr. Khieu Samphan formerly a deputy prime minister who led the Khmer forces in the defeat of the United States backed government of Marshal Lon Nol.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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