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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Offensives on KR strongholds denied

Offensives on KR strongholds denied

T HE Cambodian military has denied it has imminent plans to try to capture the

Khmer Rouge strongholds of Pailin and Phnom Malai, as fighting continues around

the areas.

"We had a plan to capture Pailin by mid-April but it was

cancelled by the government," Deputy Chief of General Staff Nhek Bun Chhay

said.

The plan was dropped because Royal Cambodian Armed Forces were

concentrating on eliminating the remaining pockets of KR guerrillas in

neighbouring Battambang province.

If the rebels were wiped out in

Battambang, Pailin would be targeted for an RCAF offensive in the dry season

next year, he said.

General Bun Chhay confirmed that RCAF troops were

positioned in several key areas near Pailin, including at Klar Nguab, between

Pailin and the Thai border, where there had been clashes with KR guerrillas. But

Pailin itself would not be attacked.

Battambang military commander Hem

Han had earlier told the Post that a major offensive was planned to capture

Pailin by mid-April.

Meanwhile, a Ministry of National Defence statement

on April 3 denied it was trying to take Phnom Malai, about 90km north of

Pailin.

The approaches to the Malai hills, just south of the bustling

border town of Poipet, has been the subject of heavy fighting since

mid-March.

The defence ministry said it was aiming to isolate Khmer Rouge

guerrillas about Mailai, but had no plans to attack the mountain.

Its

statement was the first government acknowledgement of the military offensive

which has seen scores of RCAF troops injured, mainly from landmines or booby

traps.

Senior army officers involved in the operation told Reuters that

four KR positions in surrounding areas had been captured by the

RCAF.

Military analysts say a full-scare assault on Phnom Malai is

unlikely.

It required an estimated 18,000 battle-hardened Vietnamese

soldiers backed by tanks and massed artillery to capture the mountain from the

KR in February, 1985.

Ironcially, the KR are now making good use of the

network of bunkers and tunnels dug at Malai by the former Vietnamese occupiers

of Cambodia.

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