A DRASTIC increase in fighting between government army units and Khmer Rouge
guerrillas has caused UN staff to pull out of the strategic northwest town of
Sisophon, an aid official said on April 30.
"Sisophon was rocketed last
night," said aid officials in Sisophon. "We believe they were 107 mm
Government officials meanwhile confirmed on April 30 the Khmer
Rouge now controlled Treng, a town 50 km southwest of Battambang. It was used a
base by government troops and as the launching pad for the ill-fated assault on
They added that Route 5, the main artery between Sisophon and the
border town of Poipet, had also been severed by the KR.
said thousands of refugees from far-flung hamlets were pouring into Sisophon in
search of safety.
Reliable sources in the northwest told said that the
border town of Poipet was attacked overnight on April 30 by Khmer Rouge soldiers
Khmer Rouge guerrillas interviewed near Poipet said their
superiors had ordered them to retake the northwestern towns of Poipet an
Sisophon within one month.
Over the past forthnight, the Maoist-inspired rebels have significantly
increased attacks against government positions stretching from Treng in the west
to far-north Choam Khsan.
A 400-strong rebel force was seen only 25 km
from the capital Phnom Penh, UN military sources said, citing government
intelligence reports on April 29.
The reports said a rebel force had
been sighted near hamlets of Phum Trapeang, Phum Totoeung and Phum Prek,
northwest of the capital.
Confirming the re deployment of UN aid staff
from Sisophon, the World Food Programme's (WFP) Country Director Scott Leiper
said: "It's more precautionary at this stage."
He said the withdrawal of
foreign staff was in response to KR threats to capture Sisophon, a strategic
junction town located 350 km northwest of Phnom Penh. One expatriate WFP
official would remain there, he added.
A senior government official said
Treng was taken by the Khmer Rouge after heavy fighting and artillery
"The Khmer Rouge took Treng on April 28 and the government
troops now are based at Sdao [38 km south of Battambang]," Serey Kosal, Deputy
Governor of Battambang said.
The Khmer Rouge onApril 28 said they
"At 6.30 pm, after an all-day fight which started at 6
am, we completely destroyed and liberated the headquarters of Division Four at
Treng," said the Khmer Rouge in a statement.
Treng was the major
logistics base for the recent government attack on the Khmer Rouge's
headquarters in Pailin.
The Khmer Rouge claimed to have captured a
comprehensive range of government military equipment including four twin-barrel
37 mm anti-aircraft guns, six 76 mm field guns, and an assortment of rifles and
infantry support weapons.
Leiper said at least 27,000 Cambodian civilians
had been displaced by fighting around Treng commune 50 km south of
The link between Sisophon and the Thai border, Route 5, has
become a shooting range for Khmer Rouge guerrillas where they can harass
government military movements.
"As far as we know Route Five to Poipet is
occupied by elements of [Khmer Rouge] 450 Division dug in south of the road near
Nimit - two km west," said a senior aid official who asked not to be
"It's extremely dangerous along that road for anybody."
official warned Poipet might be cut off if a northern-based KR force came south
to link up with 450 Division.
"If 519 Division can push elements down
from the north then they'll have Poipet cut-off and it might fall," he
Another senior foreign aid official said the security situation in
the northwest continued to deteriorate.
"Most of these little bushfire
attacks are being carried out very effectively by small numbers of Khmer Rouge
who are very mobile," he said.
He said the Khmer Rouge were using
classic guerrilla tactics by "choosing their own time, place and method of
attack". The Government army could only react, said the official, who asked not
to be named.
Leiper said about 10,000 refugees had been displaced by
recent fighting in the northwest and had moved into Sisophon.
mounted a "rescue mission" to bring to safety 1,000 Cambodians who earlier has
crossed into Thailand and been repatriated into unsafe areas, he
"We picked 500 up on Thursday and 500 yesterday. We brought them
safety to Sisophon reception centre," he said, adding that the convoy had passed
through Bantey Chmar and Thmar Puok, which still were in government
He likened the current situation in Cambodia to 1989 when the then
Hun Sen-led government was fighting a multi-prong offensive by the Khmer Rouge
and its non-communist allies.
"If the round table talks are put off or
canceled, the security situation in the country will be exacerbated - bloodshed
and civil war will continue throughout the country," Police Lieutenant-General
Por Vannak said.
General Vannak said, he was preoccupied organizing a
"defensive belt" in Battambang province.
A key government base at Sakream
in north-central Kompong Thom province had fallen to the Khmer Rouge, one
government official said.
The KR are blamed for the death of one million
Cambodians during a 3 1/2 year reign of terror in the 1970s.