BANTEAY MEANCHEY - The newly unified government army is poised to launch a fresh
round of attacks against Khmer Rouge positions in the north-west of the country following
a string of battlefield victories in mid-August.
"Our campaign is to continue to sweep Khmer Rouge forces away from those places
where they make problems," said Lt. Gen. Prum Moranak, field commander of the
Sisophon-based Fourth Regiment.
According to the general, the NADK's 450, 320 and 519 divisions, which were pushed
back when the CAF captured the border towns of Phum Chat and Phnum Prak, had retreated
through Thai territory to join other units from Pailin and are now concentrated in
the mountainous border areas south of Route 5.
He said the Khmer Rouge have stationed DK-75 and K-85 mm artillery pieces in Khngak
and Phnum Khla Ngoap (Dead Tiger Hill) from where Poipet market was shelled, killing
seven people and wounding 15 others at the end of August. Despite the shelling of
the key border town, officers of the Cambodian Armed Forces (CAF) in the province
describe the situation as positive.
"Their goal is to take Poipet and Phum Nimit, and to cut off Route 5 [which
links the two towns with Sisophon. But, looking carefully at their capabilities,
they can't because their forces are falling apart. Many have defected to the government,"
However, it appears that the government has not had complete success on the battlefield.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the NADK attacked Sok San on Sept. 4, where 300
former KPLNF troops and their family members were living. One report which could
not be confirmed by either the Ministry of Information or the office of the Liberal
Democratic Party said that 50 soldiers had been captured, another 50 had fled east
to Tpadey Mountain in government-controlled territory and the remaining 200 were
Sok San is an enclave on the Thai border south of Pailin which had been controlled
by the KPNLF since 1989 and which was surrounded on three sides by NADK territory.
Given the area's isolation it was an obvious issue of concern for the government
once they began their attacks on Phum Chhat in early August. There were reportedly
over 2,000 weapons stored in Sok San as well as ammunition stocks.
In planning for the recent offensive the issue of evacuating the troops in Sok San
was apparently raised with both the Thai government and UNTAC. Thailand declined
to allow the soldiers and their supplies to be moved through its territory to Poipet
and UNTAC is prohibited from using its helicopters to transport any faction's military
equipment or personnel.
In any event, no effective plan was produced to protect the soldiers in Sok San.
One UN analyst in Phnom Penh commented that there seemed to be "a lack of energy
in thinking through the program" to protect the government units there.
The government has reported the surrender of 970 NADK soldiers, including high ranking
officers, following the joint military campaign launched by former ANKI, KPNLF and
CPAF units on Aug. 9. The government also claimed six Khmer Rouge generals have defected.
There were further reports of military activity in Kompong Cham.
Gen. Prum Moranak said NADK forces were also reported to be re-deploying in Phum
Malay and receiving Thai army assistance behind Phum Chhat. Asked to comment about
the Thai role in providing assistance to the guerrillas, the general, said he doubted
high-level Thai authorities were involved. "If it happened, it must be a deal
of cash between the Khmer Rouge and local Thai border forces. I don't believe Thai
authorities would allow such a practice to happen".
Thailand has also been accused of allowing Khmer Rouge gunners to shell over Aranyaprathet
town, which sits opposite Poipet. The general said a warning was made on a local
level and relayed to the Thai army in the province. It alerted Thailand to the danger
of drawing Aranyaprathet into the conflict if the Cambodian government troops decide
"If the Khmer Rouge continue to shell Poipet, we will answer back in order to
protect ourselves. And, Aranyaprathet might get into trouble," Moranak warned.
Sources in the Fourth Regiment, which covers five provinces-Kompong Chhnang, Pursat,
Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap-predicted that the new operation is likely
to get underway in the coming days. The sources declined to give details but said
the objective was to sever the Khmer Rouge's key re-supply route from Anlong Veng
to their positions in Preah Vihear and Kompong Thom.
Major Chan Sokhom, who led troops from the former ANKI faction in an offensive on
Chup Koki, said 270 NADK soldiers were captured while the rest retreated to Pailin
and Anlong Veng-the military headquarters of the notorious one-legged Khmer Rouge
general Ta Mok.
"We also have a plan to attack Anlong Veng. The Khmer Rouge do many things bad
in the country," the major replied when asked about the mood of his troops who
were previously part of a jungle alliance fighting against the former Vietnamese-installed
"I hate Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge the same. But, they are also Khmers,
so we need to warn them a little bit too," he said.
The government's preparations to renew their offensive comes amid reports that the
once-vaunted guerrilla force is in deep trouble. Khmer Rouge commanders and guerrillas
captured after the recent fighting said morale among the troops is low and they were
having trouble securing supplies.
"We are tired of the bloodshed and the war," Col. Sy Ninh, one of the guerrilla
group's top commanders in Kompong Thom told the Phnom Penh Post from a make shift
prison camp 10 km north of the provincial town.
He attributed the mass defections in recent weeks to the political developments in
the wake of the UN-organized election and not the recent fighting which he described
"All the commanders heard [Cambodian co-President] Prince Ranariddh's radio
statement for an end to the fighting and for the soldiers to join the government
and help rebuild the country."
The colonel, who joined the Khmer Rouge in 1984, said a he no longer believed his
leaders' assertions about Vietnamese control of the central government in Phnom Penh.
"Our leaders have always warned of the Vietnamese but in 10 years of fighting
I have never seen Khmers kill Vietnamese, I have only seen Khmers kill Khmers, "
Col. Ngarn Sour, commander of government forces in Kompong Thom said the guerrillas
would be held in the camp for one week during which time they would be indoctrinated
on the current political situation and then be allowed to return to their families.
He said the guerrillas "were not hostages, they are free men."
Most of the Khmer Rouge who have so far surrendered come from the 616 Division whichwas
once one of the strongest in the country.
"There are still Khmer Rouge in Steong district who are continuing to fight
but the back of the division has been broken," Col. Sour said.
Kompong Thom, which straddles some of the Khmer Rouge's main supply lines running
from the Thai border to areas under its control in eastern Kompong Cham Province
in the areas around the Tonle Sap lake, has been the scene of some of the fiercest
fighting between the factions in recent years.
Residents in Kompong Thom said they were excited to hear about the news of the large
scale surrender and expressed hope that peace was finally at hand in the war-weary
Heng Tol, a government fisheries official, said he was terrified when he learnt he
was being sent to Kompong Thom six months ago.
"When I arrived everybody in the office had AK-47 machine guns and the Khmer
Rouge were only about kilometers away up the river.
"But now it is quiet. Hopefully this means peace is near. I cant understand
why the other Khmer Rouge continue to fight," he said.
The Khmer Rouge, which has about 10,000 guerrilllas, has offered to surrender its
army and territory if it is given an advisory role in government.
The government previously said it would consider thisif the Khmer Rouge stopped attacking
its forces. But the fighting has continued.