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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ...but already KR feeling the pinch

...but already KR feeling the pinch

W HILE international pressure has had some effect in curbing Thai military support for the Khmer Rouge in recent months, the secret fifteen year old partnership with the Pol Pot group is still far from over.

A Western diplomatic analyst concluded last month that the Thai army had scaled down their assistance to "point to point border access, purchase of fuel and other commoditites but much less network support."

In Siem Reap, 4th military region commander General Khann Savouern said this month: "Thai assistance to the Khmer Rouge... I don't know and I can't say."

After the Khmer Rouge massacred 22 Thai loggers in Preah Vihear province Nov 25, Thai premier Chuan Leekpai sent a directive to the govenors of the seven border provinces ordering them to cease any kind of cooperation with the KR.

Foreign Minister Ung Huot, returning from Thailand on Dec19, said: "We are very satisfied with the move the Thai government has made; its the best news we've heard."

The change seems to have been rapid. On Aug 11 the Cambodian news agency AKP - which normally reflects official thinking - said: "Bangkok utilizes the Khmer Rouge the same way as it used to do in the time of His Majesty the King in the 1950s and 1960s with the Khmer Serei."

International observers are not convinced however that the Thai military is as commited as Leekpai in viewing Cambodia as little more than a buffer between Vietnam and themselves.

During the UNTAC period United Nations military observers were deployed on Cambodia's borders with Vietnam, Laos and Thailand to ensure that military supplies were stopped.

They were unanimous that neither soldiers nor weapons came into Cambodia from either Vietnam or Laos.

Thailand however resisted UN military observers (UNMOs) being stationed on their side of the border, and UNMOs reported seeing new AK47 rifles in Cambodia's eastern provinces.

After the May elections, in July 1993, the KR seized the mountainous Preah Vihear temple which could only feasibly be taken from the Thai side of the border - though the Thais denied this.

A 1994 report by the Washington-based Cambodian Study Group - in the wake of the Cambodian army's defeat at Anglong Veng and Pailin - quoted KR defectors as saying that Thai-speaking military advisors provided training to the KR's 903 regiment.

It quoted KR defector Kan Peay saying that the KR army supplied food, medicine, ammunition and anti-tank mines to the KR's Borei based north of Pailin.

Reports now from high-ranking KR defectors of the rebel 908th division based in Kulen, Siem Reap confirm that the Thai crackdown is beginning to hurt.

980th division General Hourt Him said: "We have many problems with supplies from Thailand, before it was easy but now it is more difficult."

Fellow defector Colonel Ith Sam, who like General him used to get his orders directly from Pol Pot's military chief Ta Mok, said that Ta Mok bitterly complained to him a few months ago in Anglong Veng that Thailand had made everything more difficult.

However, Colonel Sam said the weapons supplyline was not closed but substantially cut back.

"Ta Mok spoke of many problems. He had to spend huge amounts to gain access to Khmer Rouge weapons stored in Thailand. These were old stocks, China does not supply any new weapons."

RCAF command is aware that many KR arsenals have been moved across the border into Cambodia, so in the event of a complete shutdown by the Thai military the KR could still fight on - but not for long.

"If we have no more supplies from Thailand then the Khmer Rouge will die off," General Him said.



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