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
"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
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
The approaches to the Malai hills, just south of the bustling
border town of Poipet, has been the subject of heavy fighting since
The defence ministry said it was aiming to isolate Khmer Rouge
guerrillas about Mailai, but had no plans to attack the mountain.
statement was the first government acknowledgement of the military offensive
which has seen scores of RCAF troops injured, mainly from landmines or booby
Senior army officers involved in the operation told Reuters that
four KR positions in surrounding areas had been captured by the
Military analysts say a full-scare assault on Phnom Malai is
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