Government Confirms Fierce Fighting In Central Province
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Cambodia’s Vietnamese-installed government today reported fierce fighting in a mountainous central province that it said Khmer Rouge guerrillas were trying to seize.
″The enemy is attempting by all means to seize control″ of Kompong Thom, the official SPK news agency quoted the chief provincial administrator, Khieu Horl, as saying.
Khieu Horl showed heaps of firearms, ammunition and other materiel recently captured from the guerrillas, said the report, who was monitored in Bangkok. He said about 800 Khmer Rouge guerrillas struck from all directions on June 17, but were repulsed in fighting that killed 112 guerrillas.
Government Col. Hang Thol was quoted as saying the guerrillas have intensified attacks since a last month’s agreement in Tokyo to arrange a truce, ″and have played havoc with any place they infiltrated into.″
The Khmer Rouge did not sign the Tokyo agreement.
The SPK report said the Khmer Rouge infiltrated through the many rivers crossing the province.
Claims of military successes by the government and the Khmer Rouge, both communist, are treated with skepticism. But other sources have confirmed heavy fighting in Kompong Thom, which previously was largely spared in the 11-year- old war as fighting focused on western areas bordering Thailand.
The Khmer Rouge and non-communist guerrillas loyal to Prince Norodom Sihanouk have seized wide areas of the province in recent months. Sihanouk’s fighters also briefly penetrated the provincial capital, also called Kompong Thom, said an Associated Press correspondent who visited the area.
The Khmer Rouge radio said Saturday it was preparing a new attack on the provincial capital, about 75 miles north of Phnom Penh.
It said that on July 12 and 13, 537 of its civilian supporters - including youths - voluntarily portered weapons, ammunition and food to guerrillas readying for the attack.
The Khmer Rouge, which killed hundreds of thousands of people when in power in the 1970s, is allied in a guerrilla coalition with the forces of Sihanouk and of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front. Vietnam installed the current government in Phnom Penh after invading in late 1978.
A U.S. policy shift announced Wednesday has increased fears that the Khmer Rouge will escalate the fighting because of its international isolation. The United States, citing its opposition to the Khmer Rouge, said it was withdrawing recognition of the coalition’s seat at the United Nations in order to open talks with Vietnam on ending the Cambodian war.
The SPK agency on Saturday urged the Khmer Rouge and its main source of arms, China, to return to talks on arranging the cease-fire.
Sihanouk and Phnom Penh’s Prime Minister Hun Sen signed on June 5 in Tokyo the agreement calling for a truce, but the Khmer Rouge boycotted the talks after complaining it was not being treated as an equal.
China later said it did not support the agreement.