Military leaders Wednesday confirmed government troop movements along the Thai border near Samlot, but denied an opposition newspaper’s claims that they are building up forces for an offensive.
Uddom Katte Khmer newspaper (Khmer Ideal) on Wednesday quoted resistance leaders Nhiek Bun Chhay and Serey Kosal as saying that some RCAF troops had been leaving the Samlot area, but that other troops had been coming in.
But RCAF leaders said Wednesday such movements are routine and necessary to minimize the number of soldiers infected with malaria, which is rampant in the area.
“It is normal that RCAF soldiers are mobilized to switch with the front line, because this is how the RCAF moves new forces in and withdraws forces that served their duty,” said Ko Chean, commander of Military Region 5, based in Battambang province.
He said the move was not in preparation for a battle against resistance troops but warned that the RCAF has an obligation to reinforce security along the border if the need should arise.
Samlot, a former Khmer Rouge base, has been the site of recent clashes between government and resistance forces.
Ek Som On, chief of staff of Military Region 5, also cited malaria concerns as the reason for the shift of soldiers.
Malaria afflicts a large number of soldiers. A 1997 study by the Ministry of Health showed that 60 percent of RCAF soldiers in government health centers were treated for malaria.
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