THMAR KOL - As Battambang's military and police factions polarized into hostile camps
last week, heavily armed pro-royalist troops moved south from Nimith and Thmar Pouk
to occupy norther Battambang province.
The BLDP-aligned soldiers, who military sources in Sisophon put at between 500-800,
were trucked down from their Division 7 and 12 bases 100 kms north of Battambang
Feb 14, Thmar Pouk field commanders said.
Thmar Pouk soldiers said they were moving down to support Funcinpec troops at Phnom
Thippedey, when they met resistance from CPP forces on Route Five.
The occupying troops from the north, dubbed the "Blue Khmer" by locals,
wore bright blue bandannas and neck-ties over their government uniforms, and around
their guns, to distinguish themselves from troops loyal to the CPP.
"We will shoot any soldiers without these blue flags," said one soldier
in the occupied zone.
Commanders occupying the Thmar Kol Primary School said their commanders were Koy
Chien, the BLDP, deputy military commander of Region 5 and Sour Chan Heng, the Division
7 commander of Thmar Pouk.
Camped in groups of 10 at regular intervals along Route Five, the soldiers set up
machine guns next to their hammocks.
Civilians and militia from the village of Chroy Sdau, 32km north of Battambang town,
who were injured in clashes as the Blue Khmer moved into the province, say it was
difficult to identify who was firing rockets into their village.
"At around 6.00am our village was hit by rockets...it seemed to come from forces
moving from the north," said one local militia from Chroy Sdau, who lost his
leg in the attack.
On Feb 17, 36 hours after the co-Defence Ministers had ordered troops to return to
their bases, the Blue Khmer were still occupying north of the river in Thmar Kol
and CPP police said they were ready for a second wave of military clashes.
"We are ready to fight with those troops who are loyal to Funcinpec," said
deputy police chief of Thmar Kol, Sem Ny, whose front-line police bordered the occupied
"Government administration, schools and markets have been shut down since the
northern troops moved into Thmar Kol, and our [CPP aligned] government soldiers and
officials are unable to enter the zone," Ny said.
"Even in civilian clothes, I cannot go over the bridge to my police base...I
am afraid," said a CPP police deputy.
Ny said local chiefs had moved out of their homes in Thmar Kol and that the Blue
Khmer had entered some local police stations, confiscating weapons and uniforms.
"They are using this chance to rob money and watches from villagers."
"Blue Khmer" soldiers said Sunday they had no immediate plans to retreat
to their northern headquarters despite orders from senior military officials in Phnom
Penh, that all troops withdraw to their bases.
At press time, provincial sources said the Blue Khmer had not left.