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Govt struggles to halt KR's Preah Vihear push

Govt struggles to halt KR's Preah Vihear push

G OVERNMENT troops mobilized in four provinces to stop a bid by the Khmer Rouge to seize control of most of Preah Vihear in early Sept, according to the military officer in charge of information with the Ministry of Defense.

In a press conference on Sept 14, Colonel Yang Vuthy described how in separate offensives the Khmer Rouge captured the two eastern districts in Preah Vihear, Chey Sen and Chhep.

He said the KR were threatening the major provincial population center, Tbeng Meanchey, before being counterattacked by government forces.

"KR guerrillas launched a heavy offensive on Chey Sen district on Aug 31 and took control of the main town for seven days," Vuthy said.

"We lost control of the district on the day of the offensive, but our Royal government forces recaptured the [majority of the] district on Sept 7, with the main town being retaken at 10:45 am."

In the same week the KR also took control of the major villages in Chhep district, but one week later the district capital was recaptured by the government troops on 12 Sept, according to Vuthy

"We started the offensive at 5 am and after spending only three hours fighting we recaptured the main town at 8 am. Now we are retaking control of the whole of Chhep district," he said.

The colonel said the government mobilized troops from the fourth military region from the provinces of Siem Reap, Battambang, Kompong Thom and Banteay Meanchey to cooperate with Preah Vihear provincial fighters to clear the guerrillas out of the main towns.

In mopping-up operations in the two districts, 15 KR guerrillas were killed and 31 assorted weapons were seized, Vuthy said.

But he said the guerrillas were still very close to the main towns in Chhep and Chey Sen district.

Earlier the Post reported that the KR substantially controlled Chom Khsan and Koulen, the districts which lie to the north and west of Tbeng Meanchey which is in the center of the province.

Vuthy said the KR are continuing to threaten Tbeng Meanchey by seizing surrounding districts and they had a long term plan to capture the entire province and use it as a base for their northern military operations.

In separate major offensives Col Vuthy announced at the press conference that the KR attacked two districts in Siem Reap province in the first two weeks of Sept.

He said: "A band of about 90 KR guerrillas from division 519 launched a heavy offensive on Chongkal district, 68 km northwest of Siem Reap town, at 5 pm on Sept 9."

Vuthy said several hundred government troops were able to withstand the 90-minute attack.

"The KR withdrew while heavily counterattacking us killing one of our soldiers and wounding another."

He added that three KR guerrillas were killed in the offensive.

Colonel Vuthy later said about 50 KR guerrillas attacked 17 km northwest of Chikreng district.

Chikreng district is 48 km southeast of Siem Reap town with Route 6 passing through it.

Vuthy said government troops immediately counterattacked the KR offensive killing four guerrillas, wounding 30 others, and seizing four weapons.

In the past two weeks of fighting the KR had suffered 61 casualties, five captured soldiers and 22 defections, according to Vuthy

He said KR losses were much higher than the RCAF which had suffered only three deaths and five wounded.

He added that 87 KR weapons and 283 rounds of assorted ammunition had been seized by government forces during the Sept fighting.

Col Vuthy later indicated the KR are massing troops near Bo Vel district, 39 km northwest of Battambang city.

He said: "The KR have been threatening security in the district everyday... they told residents to leave their villages for their own safety."

The Colonel said the KR also threatened the local authorities, telling them to stop using militias to counterattack and told them to hand over their arms.

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