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Fighting flares up near Poipet

Fighting flares up near Poipet

A S prospects of a ceasefire fizzled, instability appears to once again be spreading

to other parts of the country with nearly 2,000 people fleeing a new outbreak of

fighting in Banteay Meanchay.

Thai authorities reported on Dec 29 that 1,855 Cambodians had fled into Thailand's

Sakaew province on Monday from the northwestern village of O'Baichoan, 25km from

the Poipet border trading town.

Colonel Udomej Srithabuth said the refugees told Thai authorities that about 100

opposition troops had attacked their government-controlled village Monday morning.

"They fear government troops will fight back," he said, adding two government

soldiers were reported dead and another two wounded.

Officially, about 60,000 Cambodians have fled to Thailand to escape fighting in the

north and west since July. About 3,000 returned before the government launched a

new dry season offensive in mid-December.

"There is only a little fighting, small clashes," said Defense Ministry

spokesman General Neang Phat.

In November, some 700 villagers of O'Baichoan fled to the border after troops loyal

to resistance commander Lay Vireak temporarily took control of the town.

One foreign military attaché in Phnom Penh said that Vireak has 300 troops,

bolstered by 600 others under resistance general Nin Pin and some 70 Khmer Rouge

troops from former KR Div 519 who are also active in the province. While they are

greatly outnumbered by 2,200 government forces in the area, they may gain further

support from within the government's ranks when the time is right, the attaché

said.

He explained that seven divisions now aligned to the government expressed an interest

in defecting in July, and some of them still may do so when the time is right. "In

Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey there are troops who may still want to join Nhek Bun

Chhay... There are still potential defectors," he added.

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