G OVERNMENT troops are building up positions near the Khmer Rouge nominal capital
of Pailin, poised to launch a major attack on it in the next month or two,
according to senior military staff.
"We are launching a long-term
offensive against Pailin...and we expect to capture it by mid-April," Battambang
military commander General Hem Han said.
Thousands of RCAF soldiers
supported by used T55 tanks from Eastern Europe recently purchased by Cambodia,
were being prepared for the assault.
Lieutenant General Nhek Bun Chhay,
deputy chief of general staff, said three key RCAF positions had been
established. A regional command headquarters had been set up at Nimitr, about
60km from Pailin, where more than 3,000 troops and seven tanks were stationed.
The other RCAF camps were at Treng, 35km east of Pailin along Route 10, and at
the recently captured KR base of Kla Nguab, 4km from the Thai border.
Hem Han said about 2,000 troops were deployed in Treng, where an RCAF
engineering corp were clearing mines. A further 1,000 soldiers and four tanks
were at Kla Nguab, a KR observation post captured on Mar 17.
Nguab, the RCAF was able to monitor the larger KR base of Phnom Malai, where KR
chief Ieng Sary is said to have a house.
Gen Ham said Phnom Malai would
be attacked before any assault was launched on Pailin. "This is our new
tactics.... we will clear all Khmer Rouge bases around Pailin first and then we
move toward Pailin later," he said. RCAF troops seized the town of Pailin on
March 19 last year, only to see it fall back into guerrilla hands a month later
on April 19.