RATTANAK MONDUL - MORE than 20,000 villagers in virtually all of this district
have fled their homes after repeated attacks by the Khmer Rouge.
less than 40km from Battambang town, Rattanak Mondul sits on the western border
between Battambang province and Khmer Rouge-controlled Pailin.
been the subject of Khmer Rouge raids and shelling since Dec 16 - long before
the latest series of attacks in Battambang province - prompting a mass
"A total of 5199 families with a figure of 26,964 people in the
district have left," district chief Kem Saphin said on Jan 17.
villagers were present when the Post visited the district town, where only
soldiers and Kem Saphin's personal bodyguards were.
Saphin said some 400
Khmer Rouge fighters, along with two tanks, attacked three villages in the
district - just 3km from where RCAF troops were - on Dec 16. They later attacked
six other villages.
The guerrillas routed the local Royal army troops,
occupying nine of their positions for several hours.
reinforcements, including two tanks, arrived for the government troops, the
Khmer Rouge retreated into the jungle some 5-7km away.
Since then, they
had fired shells at the district town and surrounding villages at the rate of
three to five rounds a day.
On Jan 3, the Khmer Rouge again launched an
offensive at the town but were repelled after a seven-hour battle. Three
government soldiers died and nine were wounded.
The guerillas seized 200
sacks of rice and a mortar launcher during the fighting.
Dozens of shells
were fired at the town, killing two people and injuring 18.
frightened at being killed by shells, had since decided to
Villagers who abandoned their homes have been living in camps 5-8km
At one camp, Phat Joeun, 46, said: "I had to abandon my home for my
family's safety. The Khmer Rouge shelling came every day...I was very
Koeun Leap, a grocery seller, said she had witnessed her
neighbor being struck by shrapnel in the head.
She said she had no
intention of returning to her home in Sdav commune while the Khmer Rouge
remained within shelling distance from it.
Kem Saphin, the district
chief, said he had no great hopes of being able to urge his people to return to
their homes in the near future.
He said security of the area had never
been good since the Khmer Rouge recaptured Pailin after losing it to the RCAF in
the middle of last year.
He believed the guerillas wanted to occupy the
Rattanak Mondul district to use it as a base to spear-head other attacks in
He believed a major RCAF offensive was need to push
the rebels back to Pailin and hold them there.