Rebel Forces Take Towns, Fight Gov’t

Anti-government forces have stepped up their attacks in the northwest, capturing two villages and fighting government troops for two others, a senior RCAF official said Sunday.

Several military barracks hit by shells burned to the ground as guerrillas drove government troops out of Thlok and Pong Teuk villages, some 20 km inside Cambodian territory.

The attacks follow the defection of Colonel Pheuk Tham, deputy commander of RCAF Division 7, who took up to 20 of his troops to join the resistance on Tuesday, said Huot Chheang, deputy chief of operations for RCAF general staff.

The renewed fighting has left one RCAF soldier and two “ex­tre­mist” troops dead, Huot Chheang said.

Huot Chheang alleged that about 700 resistance forces loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Khmer Rouge troops have fanned out in the area of Banteay Chhmar and Ampil, about 15 km and 40 km north, respectively, of Division 7’s base in Thma Puok town.

Their aim is to carve out an autonomous zone along the Thai border in the very northwest of Banteay Meanchey province reaching up into Oddar Meanchey province, the CPP-appointed general said.

But Huot Chheang and military analysts downplayed the advance, saying the gains were minor and it is likely government forces will retake the positions during dry season offensives.

Division 7, which is based about 45 km north of Sisophon, remains loyal to the government and has led clashes against the anti-government troops, Huot Chheang said.

The guerrilla effort is the result of combined planning on the part of resistance and opposition leaders and Khmer Rouge stalwarts, Huot Chheang said.

Opposition leaders have denied reporters that they are encouraging their supporters to take up arms against the government.

Medicins Sans Frontieres staff at its medical clinic along the Thai border farther south was on alert to evacuate the area, an MSF official said Sunday.

The official cited ongoing tension in the area and troop movements that have marked the last couple of weeks. Top Military Region 5 officials visited parts of Banteay Meanchey province and former Khmer Rouge zones this month to combat anti-government recruitment efforts.

Huot Chheang said that heavy rains would make it difficult for the government army to recapture the villages. But he declined to answer when asked if the government army would wait for the end of the rainy season to retake the villages, as military analysts have suggested.

Forces were still clashing on Sunday in K’dom and Trom villages in Ampil district. “So far we do not know the outcome of the fighting there because it’s still going on,” Huot Chheang said.

A low-intensity guerrilla war has been waging between forces loyal to the prince and the government army since fighting died down in January.

Half of Division 7 abandoned their post last year and joined the resistance after CPP troops drove Funcinpec troops from the capital and ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh as the first prime minister.

 

 

Autonomous zone along the Thai border in the very northwest of Banteay Meanchey province reaching up into Oddar Mean­chey province, the CPP-appointed general said.

But Huot Chheang and military analysts downplayed the advance, saying the gains were minor and it is likely government forces will retake the positions during dry-season offensives.

Division 7, based about 45 km north of Sisophon, remains loyal to the government and has led clashes against the anti-government troops, Huot Chheang said.

The guerrilla effort is the result of combined planning on the part of resistance and opposition leaders and Khmer Rouge stalwarts, Huot Chheang said. Opposition leaders deny such charges.

Military officials visited Banteay Meanchey province and former Khmer Rouge zones this month to combat anti-government re­cruitment efforts.

Huot Chheang said heavy rains would make it difficult for the government to recapture the villages. But he declined to say whether the army would wait for the end of the rainy season to re­take the villages, as military analysts said.

Forces were still clashing on Sunday in K’dom and Trom villages in Ampil district. “So far we do not know the outcome of the fighting there because it’s still going on,” Huot Chheang said.

 

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