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Push to Pailin confirmed by Tea Banh

Push to Pailin confirmed by Tea Banh

T HE Cambodian Government is planning to capture the Khmer Rouge stronghold of

Pailin after its forces recaptured Treng from the rebels on May 11.

"We

have always lived under the Khmer Rouge attacks, so we have to take Pailin...

otherwise the Khmer Rouge will not let us live in safety," Co-Minister of

Defense Tea Banh told the Post on May 16.

The minister declined to say

when, or how the Royal Cambodian Armed forces ( RCAF ) would try to capture the

Khmer Rouge nominal capital.

"You should not want to know when and how to

capture it... and leave this job for whom has the duty to do it," he

added.

Earlier on May 9, First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh

said when he visited Battambang that the Khmer Rouge must be driven from Pailin

or they might become more of a threat.

"If we allow them to live in

Pailin anymore, they will continue to attack areas in Battambang... if we let

them live in Rattanak Mondul district, they attack Treng... if we let them live

in Treng, they can capture Battambang province... then they could capture

Kampong Chhnang and after that they could attack Phnom Penh," he

said.

"We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot let the Khmer Rouge

live in Pailin," 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 with heavy losses in men and equipment including tanks and new

French-supplied Berliet trucks.

Since the beginning of this rainy

season, the Khmer Rouge guerrillas have launched heavy attacks on many

government positions in the north of Cambodia. They have fired shells and

rockets into the border trade centre of Poipet and briefly held a key government

front-line base at Treng commune.

Treng is the closest government outpost

to Pailin on Route 10 about 45 km southwest from Battambang town and 35 km east

of Pailin.

Around 500 Khmer Rouge guerrillas backed by six tanks launched

an offensive late April and overran the government military front-line base at

Treng on May 1.

Battambang military commander, Major General Hem Ham

said during a 11-day occupation of Treng KR rebels had seized about 250,000

rounds of ammunition, 300 assorted weapons and burnt down 90 soldiers' barracks

and four administration buildings.

"The Khmer Rouge took everything from

the base... when we arrived, we found only ashes... the damages to the army base

cost about 200 million riel [about US $100,000]," the general said.

He

said the government had more than 1,000 troops backed by 12 tanks involved in

the recapture of Treng.

" We retook Treng on the afternoon of May 11 with

heavy fighting and shelling," Gen. Ham said. But he declined to provide the

figure of casualties from both sides.

General Ham said during a 11 days-

occupation, the KR guerrillas had laid thousands of mines and booby traps in and

around Treng before they withdrew back into their jungle sanctuaries around

Pailin. They are continuing to harass government troops with sporadic tank fire.

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