T HE Cambodian military is bracing for a Khmer Rouge offensive in Preah Vihear province, which it wants as the capital of its self-declared provisional government, a senior minister said on Sept 1.
"The Khmer Rouge have the intention to occupy Preah Vihear and to set this province as their capital," said Secretary of State for Information Khieu Kanharith.
In June, Cambodia's outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrilla faction declared its own "provisional government" with nominal leader Khieu Samphan as its president.
The insurgents said they would establish their capital in Preah Vihear province in the country's far north, which has long served as a base for their military operations.
Kanharith said the military expected attacks along Route 12, an unsealed road leading north from Kompong Thom to Preah Vihear.
"They've planned it and they've already moved in troops from Pursat, Kompong Chhang, Koh Kong and also from Banteay Meanchey," he said, adding up to 1,000 guerrillas had been deployed in preparation for the offensive.
Preah Vihear is the personal stronghold of one of the most notorious Khmer Rouge leaders, the one-legged Ta Mok, nicknamed the "butcher" for his ruthless suppression of political opponents during the late 1970s.
The rugged Dangrek mountains that form the province's northern border between Thailand and Cambodia have provided sanctuary for Khmer Rouge guerrillas for decades.