Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tank kills highlight RCAF infighting

Tank kills highlight RCAF infighting

Tank kills highlight RCAF infighting

W hen Khmer Rouge guerrillas recaptured their northern bases around Anlong Veng

on Feb 24, they destroyed two government T-54 Soviet main battle tanks during

the counterattack.

While in itself not seemingly unusual, the fact that

the guerrillas used a sophisticated German-made anti-tank missile to accomplish

the task was.

The Ambrust tank kills have highlighted a simmering anger

and divisiveness within the ranks of the newly integrated Royal Cambodian Armed

Forces between the soldiers of the CPP and those of the former guerrilla

factions of Funcinpec and the KPNLF.

CPP commanders and soldiers blame

the former guerrillas for providing the Khmer Rouge with the weapons. CPP

soldiers also grumble that their new allies still maintain loyalty to the Khmer

Rouge, claiming they have refused to attack some Khmer Rouge positions, and even

lied about Khmer Rouge positions to protect friends who remain in the ranks of

the guerrilla faction.

Some Funcinpec and KPNLF soldiers contend the CPP

soldiers are incompetent jungle fighters, forcing the former guerrillas to

assume the lion's share of the more dangerous tasks of penetrating the Khmer

Rouge enclaves.

Many rank and file Funcinpec and KPNLF soldiers are loathe

to attack and kill some Khmer Rouge soldiers who remain friends after fighting

side by side during the 14-year civil war in which they were allies.

The

former guerrillas are also more sympathetic to a political solution to the

conflict which would bring the Khmer Rouge into the new government.

The

69-mm Armbrust anti-tank weapon was part of a number of covert shipments of

sophisticated weapons to the two non- communist guerrilla factions in the summer

of 1989 by Singapore through a government controlled arms company called

Chartered Industries. More than 100 Ambrusts were supplied to the non-communist

guerrillas.

The weapons, along with another Singapore supplied anti-tank

weapon - the Swedish 84 mm Carl Gustav - contributed greatly to a successful

guerrilla offensive launched in the days after the Vietnamese military

withdrawal in September 1989. The Armbrust is a one-time-use shoulder-fired

weapon, which has to be visually aimed and has a range of 300

metres.

Tensions within the ranks of the army are not limited to the rank

and file. Some Funcinpec officials believe that bringing the Khmer Rouge into

the government can offer them protection against the CPP who they believe will

attempt to eventually strip them of power.

" The day the Khmer Rouge are

dead, is the day Funcinpec will be dead," commented a senior Funcinpec General

in the government army.

Others say that the CPP is loathe to bring the

Khmer Rouge into the government because it will undermine their own control over

the state while strengthening Funcinpec's. "The CPP supports fighting because

they are afraid the KR will come back to join the government, and then the CPP

will have less control," said a western diplomat.

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