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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KR Open Bloody Anti-Poll Campaign

KR Open Bloody Anti-Poll Campaign

A recent spate of attacks including the major April 3 assault and rampage through

Siem Reap, which have claimed the lives of one Colombian and one Japanese civilian

police and left 16 other peacekeepers injured, has led a number of U.N. and other

sources to comment that the Khmer Rouge are successfully living up to their promise

to try and disrupt the elections.

The Japanese policeman was killed after his car, which was in a convoy of six vehicles

led by Dutch troops, was ambushed as they were traveling along the road to Phum Ampil

in Banteay Meanchey province, U.N. spokesman Eric Falt said.

At 12:30 p.m. , gunmen fired a B-40 at the Dutch truck injuring five of the six soldiers

on board. The ambushers then proceeded to spray the U.N. police in the next two cars

behind with gunfire. Four Japanese police monitors were hit. Insp. Haruyuki Takada,

35, died on the spot .

Members of an Indian mine clearance training team and two Norwegian UNVs traveling

in the subsequent three cars escaped the ambush. Due to the dusty roads vehicles

tend to spread out, leaving quite a bit of space between cars, Falt said.

"The passengers of the other vehicles had time to stop when they saw the attack

developing and they managed to escape unhurt," Falt said.

The wounded, five Dutch soldiers and three Japanese police, were initially rushed

to the Dutch battalion's field hospital in Phum Nimit.

Four of the troops and two Japanese were then evacuated to Bangkok. Insp. Kazuharu

Zagi and Lt. Eizaboro Taniguchi are still in the Royal Thai hospital. The condition

of the four soldiers was unknown, Falt said.

The area where the ambush occured is controlled by FUNCINPEC but there is a sizable

Khmer Rouge presence in the royalist's zone.

The identities of the gunmen were unknown, Falt said. "However it has been established

that this was a deliberate attack against UNTAC. It also bears certain similarities

with the attack that occured yesterday morning, (May 3) in Cham Kar Leu district

in the province of Kompong Cham during which five Indian peacekeepers were injured

by the NADK."

The previous Friday (April 30) U.N. police were driving in the same area where the

five Indian troops were attacked when they inadvertently ran into a group of gunmen

attacking and looting the village of Trang Krang. The unidentified gang fired at

the UNTAC vehicle killing Colombian Agent Caicedo Venancio and injuring his Malaysian

colleague.

The same night in Kratie province, two Uruguayans had to be 'medivaced' out of Phum

Chhlong to get shrapnel wounds treated. The injuries were sustained when their house

came under small arms fire and was hit by two B-40 rockets.

Once again, in this case, the affiliation of the gunmen was unknown. But the incident

happened quite near to the location where a group of Uruguayan soldiers had been

kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge last December, Falt said.

These recent attacks have brought the number of UNTAC personnel killed or injured

as a result of hostile action to 56. An alarming fact about this casualty toll, and

one that lends credence to the observers contention that the Khmer Rouge have started

their own 'electoral campaign', is that 36 of these hostile acts have taken place

since the beginning of last month. Prior to April, the fatality list consisted of

only four people , two Bangladeshis, one a police monitor and the other a civilian

worker, who were killed in March and two Cambodian electoral workers slain in January.

Equally alarming for the prospect of holding trouble free elections was the Khmer

Rouge's large scale assault on Siem Reap. No exact figures were available but U.N.,

and State of Cambodia sources in the provincial town, said an estimated 300 guerrillas,

in three different groups, launched the attack at around 4.30 am on both the town

and the Cambodian Peoples' Armed Forces garrison, located halfway between the airport

and Angkor Wat.

Sithira Chea, whose house sits just opposite the CPAF base, said she was caught in

the middle of the firefight. Outside her gate two dead Khmer Rouge soldiers lay sprawled,

face up on the dusty road, flies buzzing in their eyes, dried blood around their

head wounds.

Standing outside her house talking to the Post, she said she was relatively lucky,

four or five of her neighbors' houses lay in smoldering ruins. "They saw some

government posters in them," she said by way of explanation.

Chea said she hid under the house but there were at least fifty guerrillas swarming

around and they found her and her husband. "They searched the house and took

all my belongings, they took my gold," she said. The guerrillas asked them if

they were "Youn." "We said 'no we are not Youn' but they shot my husband

in the arm because they said he looked Vietnamese."

Yim Sophal was parked with his tank and APC unit just in front of the ruins of the

temple.

"When they attacked the village in front of my camp, all of us got up and fired

heavily at them. It took us almost half an hour and then they started to retreat,"

Sophal said. He bragged that it was his APC that had mowed down the two guerrillas.

"I don't know how many more were injured, we just saw the two dead," he

said proudly, adding "We did not abandon our base, we stayed and beat them off."

Meanwhile, more guerrillas went on a rampage throughout the town. A U.N. military

source said that the attackers did not attempt take positions necessary to capture

and hold the town. The tactics were designed more to instill terror than to seize

territory, he said.

According to locals, the guerrillas went on a looting spree, plundering houses and

stealing motorbikes.

One elderly lady in tears recounted what had happened to her the previous night.

"I prayed to God and begged them not to kill me. They just shouted give us your

gold, give us your money," she said. The guerrillas fired above her head, around

her feet and shot up her house. "I said you can take my cows. But they got angry

and said what use are cows to us," the old lady said. She then offered them

the cigarettes she sells on the street. The Khmer Rouge only took the international

brands and spurned cheap brands such as Oscar, she said. They also took her voting

card.

Jeff Russell, a freelance photographer, was staying in a small guest house when he

found himself engulfed in the attack. "Around 5.00 a.m. the DK were on both

sides of the house firing rockets and machine guns," he said. It wasn't until

daybreak that the CPAF soldiers started to rally and repulse them from the town.

The fighting died down about 7.30, he said.

A French tourist with a tour group staying in the Grand Hotel said it appeared the

government soldiers were unprepared. "The fighting was very messy. The government

troops were taken by surprise. They needed time to organize themselves and fire back.

Around 7.30 to 8.00, they got things under control. He and the rest of the group

said they were not too worried. French soldiers had come to the hotel and told them

to stay put and that they were stationed nearby so they would be safe," he said.

Russell said that after the fighting had died down in the town, an Austrian tourist

and his girlfriend tried to reach the airport by motorbike. But on the way ran into

a second round of fighting between CPAF and one of the three Khmer Rouge groups.

The Austrian was shot in the leg. U.N. spokesman, Eric Falt said that the tourist

was treated by the U.N. medical staff in Siem Reap and that his wound was not serious.

There were conflicting reports of casualties. CPAF Gen. Pann Thay claimed his troops

had killed 13 Khmer Rouge guerrillas and captured two.

However, Falt said that four NADK soldiers, one CPAF soldier and two local civilians

were killed. He added that one Khmer Rouge was seriously injured and was being treated

in the UNTAC field hospital.

The bodies of the Khmer Rouge seemed to have been left deliberately where they fell

for the benefit of the journalists who were flown up to Siem Reap by CPAF.

The U.N. figure seemed closer to the truth as the Post saw only four dead guerrillas.

U.N. soldiers confirmed that they had taken the injured guerrillas to the hospital.

A SOC policeman was just about to 'finish the wounded soldier off' but he hesitated

for a moment allowing the U.N. military observers to quickly grab the guerrilla and

take him away for medical care.

There were no UNTAC casualties although a B-40 rocket was fired at the hotel where

UNTAC personnel were staying. The rocket reportedly blew the air-conditioner out

of the room next door to a military observer. Falt also said guerrillas had entered

and ransacked several houses belonging to peacekeepers stationed there.

There was little evidence of the guerrillas much-vaunted discipline and respect for

the poor or the peasantry, as nearby four or five houses lay in smoldering ruins

as did quite a number of others belonging to farmers outisde town.

CPAF Gen. Pann Thay claimed that FUNCINPEC was involved in the attack. "They

drove their vehicles to throw grenades and open fire across town," he said.

If the Khmer Rouge's intention was to spread fear, they seemed to have succeeded.

"I am still very frightened. But I don't know where to go. This is my birthplace,

this is my house. I worry very much," the old lady, who had her voting card

and cigarettes stolen, said with tears in her eyes.

But if they also were hoping to derail the electoral process, they weren't quite

so successful. The old woman said she was still going to vote.

"I want the election to come very quickly because I want to know which government

can prevent the Khmer Rouge from killing the people like this," she said.

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