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Police claim upper hand in Battambang

Police claim upper hand in Battambang

B ATTAMBANG authorities claim they are winning the battle against Khmer Rouge

guerrillas in the province, though rebel hit and run attacks are still

occurring.

"Battambang province is now safe from a large-scale offensive

by Khmer Rouge rebels," Battambang police commander General Van Chhunly, the

head of a special anti-KR force, declared.

The special unit, comprising

1000 policemen and 300 soldiers, was set up last month as many rural areas of

the province were being wracked by repeated KR raids.

Gen Chhunly said

the KR - which had previously lobbed several shells into the outskirts of the

Battambang capital - had been pushed back far from the town.

He said five

districts which had suffered heavy KR attacks - Ek Phnom, Banan, Bavel, Rattanak

Mondul and Moung - were now largely clear of guerrillas.

However, he

acknowledged that pockets of KR remained on the outer edges of the

districts.

Bavel - where hundreds of houses have been burnt down in KR

scorched-earth attacks since January - remained the most dangerous place for

villagers.

On March 8, a small group of KR attacked three villages in

Bavel district, about 40 Km northwest from Battambang town, burning down 13

houses.

Three rebel soldiers were killed in a counter-attack by Chhunly's

unit, the remainder retreating.

Three days later, 31 villagers were

abducted from Sneung village in Rattanak Mondul district, about 35 Km west of

Battambang town, while cutting firewood in an outlying area.

Gen Chhunly

said two of the villagers later escaped, and reported that the rest had been

marched off along Route 10 toward the KR strong-hold of Pailin.

He said

he had heard reports that they had since been shot dead, but no bodies had been

found.

Meanwhile, seven shells were fired by the KR into two villages in

Rattanak Mondul district on Mar 11. There were no reports of

injuries.

And on Mar 14, guerillas attacked Rossei Krang village in Moung

district, before being repelled.

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