Counting the defectors

One less-than-reliable gauge of success for Vietnam and its allies here is how many defecting fighters they can claim from the anti-Hanoi resistance fighters in Cambodia. In 1985, following a successful Vietnamese offensive against rebel camps, the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK, or Cambodia) launched a propaganda campaign to offer clemency - as well as a plot of land and cash for guns surrendered - to ``misled'' fighters.

The Vietnam-backed Cambodian government claims an increasing tempo of returnees, including a few top commanders of the Khmer Rouge, although its published figures don't always add up. But the statistics do show some progress. If accurate, the eight-year total of rebel defectors amounts to about 60 percent of present guerrilla forces, although the rebels have gained new recruits since the Vietnamese entered Cambodia in late 1978. Western analysts estimate there are about 50,000 guerrillas today.

If Phnom Penh wants a rebel-free country after the planned 1990 pullout of some 120,000-140,000 Vietnamese troops, then Phnom Penh will need far faster rate of rebel defections.

Year Rebel defectors claimed by PRK

1st quarter '87 607

'86 4,622

'85 5,227

'84 3,228

'83 909

'82 2,006

'81 1,636

'80 4,194

'79 11,741

TOTAL 33,563

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