A s the international community met to decide the fate of nearly $1 billion in
aid for Cambodia, the Post has learned the military has undermined the national
budget to fund further offensives against the Khmer Rouge.
government official said: "We have been ordered to give the military a blank
"This could ruin our budget and jeopardize aid from the donor
The move follows a failure by the government to win new
international military assistance to purchase sorely-needed ammunition and other
supplies for offensives against the KR headquarters at Pailin and Anlong Veng,
which the government lost again to the KR on Feb 24.
The new money which
will be poured into the the military's coffers is over and above the 28 percent
of total government expenditure they got in the carefully constructed budget
passed in January.
The budget was to be presented to the International
Conference on Reconstruction of Cambodia (ICORC) in Tokyo as an indication of
the new government's willingness to set priorities which will contribute to
International lending institutions and donor
countries are closely monitoring the government's fiscal performance and any
effort to redirect money from the state treasury towards military expenditures
is likely to cause alarm.
The international community is already
skeptical that the government can be trusted to use international assistance as
it is pledged. ICORC is considering the release of nearly $1 billion in pledges
from donor countries.
Internally, redirecting cash away from other
ministries to the military is likely to have major repercussions on the
hard-pressed coalition government.
After two months of heavy fighting
that has left hundreds dead and millions of scarce dollars spent on war
preparations, the military balance of power remains the same and the country is
no closer to a political or military solution to its conflict.
capturing areas around the Khmer Rouge northern headquarters of Anlong Veng in
early February, government forces lost the area on Feb 24 to a Khmer Rouge
Major new preparations for government offensives in the
far north and against the Khmer Rouge western headquarters around Pailin are
again underway. More than 5,000 government forces are assembled to retake areas
around Anlong Veng and 7,000 troops have been deployed in Battambang. Many of
these troops, which include 3,000 interior ministry police sent to Battambang,
have been imported from other provinces.
But many field level commanders
and western military analysts say that the government plans make little military
sense and are destined to fail. They cite lack of ammunition to undertake and
sustain such large scale offensives, poor training and morale of government
soldiers, and the inherent difficulties of doing significant damage to the
guerrilla structure of the Khmer Rouge.
Analysts also point to major
problems within the ranks of the government military. These include tension
between Cambodian People's Party troops and their former enemies from the
Func-inpec and KPNLF, low pay, lack of food supplies, little access to medicine,
poor communications, and dangerous supply lines. These add up to poor morale and
the lack of fight in the rank and file, they say.
As the government
forces prepared to launch the new offensives, King Sihanouk issued a March 7
declaration from Beijing calling for an immediate ceasefire.
beginning until today, the war between the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the
National Army of Democratic Kampuchea has not brought any good results or
benefits to our motherland at all," King Sihanouk said," On the contrary, it has
brought only destruction, suffering, pain, shame and desperation for Cambodia,
the nation, and especially for our poor innocent people.
" In my capacity
as father of the nation and Samdech Euv of the entire Cambodian people, both men
and women in all political parties, I would like to appeal to the Royal
government and it's RCAF and the DK and it's NADK to agree to an immediate,
general truce at all fronts throughout Cambodia."
While the government
claimed a decisive military victory at Anlong Veng in early February, evidence
emerged that the battle was fraught with difficulties and large unreported
The government's official figures were less than 50 dead in
the six-week campaign until the capture of Anlong Veng, senior military
officials and diplomats privately acknowledge more than 200 government soldiers
killed and 500 wounded. At least four generals were killed. Six tanks were
There were reports of commanders executing soldiers at the
front because they refused to fight, and diplomats confirmed other reports of
commanders fleeing the battlefield against orders from their superiors.
Many senior government commanders were known to be opposed to the
offensive, contending it would be militarily unsound. But they were overruled by
their Phnom Penh based commanders and political leadership.
low, there is not enough food, not enough ammo, no medicine. The soldiers don't
want to do anything. That is the reason the KR took it [Anlong Veng] back," said
one western diplomat.
"They should stop the fighting and reorganize their
own areas and troops to defend what they have. After what happened in the last
weeks, in the rainy season forget it. They can't hold it. Many people are going
to get killed for nothing," he said.
Many diplomats and military analysts
complained that the government had launched a propaganda offensive designed to
mislead the international community of events on the battlefront.
government officials repeatedly claimed that Anlong Veng had fallen to the
government in January, contentions that were later known to be false. Some
remain skeptical that the base where journalists and military attaches were
taken by helicopter in mid February was the main headquarters of the Khmer Rouge
commander Ta Mok, as claimed.
Some government military officials and
foreign analysts say that the base was indeed a Khmer Rouge Division commander's
headquarters located seven km to the south of Ta Mok's main base.
Division commander, some sources claim, was Pich Chheam, the former Khmer Rouge
ambassador to Beijing. Cheam was ambassador to Beijing in 1975, and many former
Khmer Rouge supporters blame him for the hundreds of Khmer intellectuals who
were encouraged to return to Cambodia in 1975, only to be arrested at Pochentong
airport on arrival and taken away to be executed.
Photo albums of Chheam
and his family with senior Khmer Rouge officials and other portraits of life in
the jungle and Beijing were found in the main house that government commanders
said was Ta Mok's headquarters.