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Troop strength beefed up in Siem Reap

Troop strength beefed up in Siem Reap

E IGHT hundred troops were flown into Siem Reap on Sunday May 15 to re-inforce a

defensive perimeter around the town, which authorities believe the Khmer Rouge

are trying to capture.

As the Post went to press officials said they

were confident of thwarting any KR offensive well outside Siem Reap and the mood

seemed calm among townsfolk.

The re-inforcements bring government troop

strength around the town to 1,500. According to Siem Reap provincial police

commander Lieutenant-General Chea Sophat they face four Khmer Rouge divisions

totaling 640 troops, including men in the guerrillas' most elite units.

"Their aim is to take Puoc district so they can then occupy the airport,

thence Siem Reap town," said the police commander.

"But it's impossible

because their numbers are too small against the government

forces."

Despite the perceived threat from the guerrillas, Lt-Gen Sophat

said the level of fighting had been low in the last few days. In the worst

incident 150 guerrillas and 70 policemen clashed on May 8. Lt-Gen Sophat said

three KR troops, one policeman and a civilian died in the firefight at Chong-

can district in the province.

The UN advised its ex-pat staff in the

ILO, UNDP and Unesco to evacuate the town on May 12 and prior to the arrival of

the troop re-inforcements hotel staff were warned to prepare to defend their

buildings from an imminent attack.

A directive issued by the governor's

chief of cabinet, Uch Van Thol, said that due to "the urgent and necessary

situation of the province", including the "ferocious and wild activities of

Khmer Rouge guerrillas...all chiefs of hotels, departments and offices must be

ready to defend their own establishments...and check and prepare all weapons,

common or private belonging to the establishment and equip employees ready to

attack."

Only a handful of tourists were seen wandering around Siem Reap,

gateway to the Angkor temple complex, over the weekend. Alex Thomas, assistant

manager of the Grand Hotel, said the number of guests in his hotel had dropped

considerably after May 12, but added this period was commonly a lean

season.

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