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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No Let-Up in Ceasefire Violations in Kompong Thom

No Let-Up in Ceasefire Violations in Kompong Thom

U.N. Says No Evidence of Dry Season Offensive

KOMPONG THOM-The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian People's Armed Forces (CPAF) have

been trading shots intermittently over the last four months in this strategic central

province, with each side now charging that the other is preparing to launch a major

dry season offensive there.

Last week shells hit San Tuk, a CPAF-controlled village 26 kilometers east of Kompong

Thom on Route 6. There were no casualties.

The local militia produced the remains of a 107mm rocket (the type used by the Khmer

Rouge) for a U.N. military observer team dispatched to investigate the shelling incident.

But later, members of the UNTAC Indonesian battalion, who were on patrol southwest

of San Tuk prior to the rocket attack, reported that it was CPAF forces-not Khmer

Rouge-who shelled the village.

"A woman came rushing to our troops and told us that they were CPAF not NADK

[National Army of Democratic Kampu-chea; i.e. Khmer Rouge forces]," said Capt.

Aan of the Indonesian battalion.

"One CPAF soldier also confessed that [CPAF] was doing the shelling," Aan

said. "They weren't intending to shell the Indonesians, they just wanted to

keep it a secret that they were shelling their own town. CPAF was trying to scapegoat

the NADK. Usually if the NADK attacks there are a lot of casualties."

When asked whether CPAF shells their own territory, Capt. Aan replied: "It happens

often. Sometimes they use captured DK weapons. We've seen CPAF with 107mm rockets."

Despite the intermittent shelling and sabotage, military observers in Kompong Thom

city say there's no evidence of any major new military operations in the province.

"We have some evidence of arms caching and movement of troops by the Khmer Rouge,"

said Maj. George Jones, a U.N. military observer in Kompong Thom.

"We have no evidence that there is going to be something special," he said,

"only that associated with this time of year."

The destruction of two bridges in Kompong Thom province in mid-October-which the

United Nations termed the most serious ceasefire violation to date-was reputed by

the State of Cambodia to be the start of a Khmer Rouge dry season offensive.

The Khmer Rouge denied any involvement and countered with an accusation that the

SOC had deployed 500 Vietnamese soldiers dressed in CPAF uniforms to launch operations

in the area.

A U.N. military observer stationed in Sala Vichai, 18 kilometers north of Kompong

Thom city on Route 12, said there has been irregular shelling recently.

"There was a lull last month but a few days ago it started-over 100 explosions,"

he said. "Now it's calm again."

Rather than an armed military offensive, Maj. Jones said, the Khmer Rouge have recently

launched a political offensive consisting of threats against local people in the

province for cooperating with UNTAC.

"The Khmer Rouge have initiated some level of political campaign in the last

three weeks," said Jones. "They come in and rip down our posters. They

tell the locals 'If you accept UNTAC we will come back.' "

The U.N. military observers in Sector 5W are charged with monitoring the movements

of arms or soldiers over 16,000 square miles of territory, two-thirds of which is

jungle.

"We've been severely limited during the rainy season," said Jones. "We

can't land [our helicopters] to investigate, but we can get a feel for the size of

any vehicles that might be using remote jungle tracks."

Military Observer Ed Pyne said UNTAC has not detected any increase in CPAF troop

levels or the presence of Vietnamese troops in the area.

"There was a substitution of a [CPAF] battalion on Route 12 in late September

in Sala Vichai," Pyne said.

"They shifted troops around but it was not an increase in the numbers. And we

haven't seen anything [concerning the presence of Vietnamese] that would lead us

to be suspicious."

Mrs. Kao Chheng Hour, a SOC People's Party official in Kompong Thom city, said, "There

are indications that the KR will initiate a large attack during elections. They have

transported much ammunition into Stung, San Tuk, Baray and Kompong Thom districts.

We learn this through the local population and through our spies."

A U.N. military observer in Sala Vichai was less confident. "They're rumors,"

he said when asked to comment on increased movement of Khmer Rouge troops. "If

you ask any official here they will tell you so many have moved, but there is no

way to verify it."

The Indonesian battalion in charge of Kompong Thom has had a working relationship

in the past with General Man Rong, the senior Khmer Rouge officer in the province,

and Indonesian troops are in regular contact with Khmer Rouge troops at one cantonment

site.

Are the KR on the move? "It's difficult to estimate," said Capt. Aan. "The

Khmer Rouge are all over the province in small units. We don't know for sure how

many troops they have."

Despite the lack of hard evidence of preparations for a dry season offensive by either

side, since January of this year on-going ceasefire violations have caused the displacement

of more than 10,000 villagers in the province.

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