Ambush Fails to Dampen Massive Turnout

Khmer Rouge Said To Kill at Least 8 Near Anlong Veng

Forces believed to be Khmer Rouge guerrillas launched a deadly Sunday morning attack in northern Cambodia, stealing part of the election day spotlight from their adversaries in Phnom Penh.

The guerrillas shelled and raided an RCAF outpost in O Pong Penh village about 12 km south of Anlong Veng town, military officials said.

Three top RCAF generals, in­cluding Defense co-Minister Tea Banh, blamed the 5 am attack on soldiers loyal to fugitive hard-line Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok.

The generals and election officials in Phnom Penh said the attack did not affect voting. There is no polling station in the area.

Two government soldiers were killed and five injured, Tea Banh said Sunday night. He also reported several rebels killed and in­jured, but exact figures were not known. He claimed two rebels were captured alive.

Six villagers also were killed and two houses were destroyed by fire after being struck by mortar shells, Deputy Chief of Gen­eral Staff Meas Sophea said late Sunday.

The small RCAF base was shelled and then overrun by 30 to 40 guerrillas, who stayed more than three hours before withdrawing shortly before 9 am, Meas Sophea said.

“This is a small scale guerrilla-style attack from the Khmer Rouge which can be described as the activity of robbers,” he said.  than three hours before withdrawing shortly before 9 am, Meas Sophea said.

“This is a small-scale guerrilla-style attack from the Khmer Rouge which can be described as the activity of robbers,” he said.

National Election Committee Gen­­eral Secretary Im Suorsdei def­ended the decision to include the former Khmer Rouge stronghold in the election. The area has about 5,000 registered voters.

“I am very sorry about the problem, but personally I do not regret the registration and the voting,” he said, noting that the polling station at Anlong Veng was in the center of the former rebel stronghold at a school.

Im Suorsdei said the Khmer Rouge wanted to get attention.

“The Khmer Rouge, they want to prolong their existence, that is why they would like to [try to] disturb polling stations,” he said.

A Western military analyst said the guerrillas’ voting-day attack was no coincidence.

“They want to show that in fact they are still a force. Not a force to be worried about, but they still exist,” he said. “Today is a good day to get attention.”

The Khmer Rouge boycotted the 1993 election and aggravated the UN-supervised campaign with sporadic small-scale attacks. Two weeks ago, a convoy of election officials was ambushed at Trapaing Prasat outside Anlong Veng. At least two died in the ambush, which army officials blamed on the Khmer Rouge.

The analyst said Sunday that the Anlong Veng area is not as secure as it was a month ago, asserting that some of the hundreds of rebels who joined the government in March are restless.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if these skirmishes continue,” he said. “It seems that the defectors are split. Some are not pleased…because supplies have stopped coming from Phnom Penh while others are happy with the government.”

The analyst also said it is untrue that Ta Mok has only 200 fighters.

“It’s accurate to say they have 1,000 men that can be called guerrillas and they probably could arm 3,000 men if they had to,” he said.

The attack was announced Sunday at an NEC press conference. Stung Treng and Banteay Mean­chey also had extra security for fear of attack.

In Stung Treng, a band of rebel defectors in uniform approached a polling station, but left when confronted by security forces, Im Suorsdei said. No one was hurt, he added.

“Some people—they want to enter and disturb the process, but our security chased them out,” Im Suorsdei said.

(Reporting by Touch Ro­tha, Pin Sisovann, Kay Johnson and Chris Decherd)

 

 

 

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