siem reap – Senior military officials here said Wednesday that a “large-scale” attack on guerrillas hunkered down in the heavily forested Dangrek Mountains about 100 km northeast of here is planned for launch in one week.
General Preap Tann, director of propaganda for the RCAF general staff, said the military is trying to secure defections from the estimated 200 to 400 Khmer Rouge guerrillas still loyal to hard-line chief of staff Ta Mok.
About 100 of the guerrillas and their families are ready to defect, Preap Tann claimed.
But a commander known as “Tem” is pressuring them to fight government soldiers and rebel defectors who have combined forces, he added.
Top RCAF officials have asserted that more than 2,000 rebel defections since March 25 have weakened the remaining hard-line Khmer Rouge, and have helped to deliver key strategic outposts to the government.
RCAF generals said Wednesday that defectors newly loyal to the government are positioned between the guerrillas and Anlong Veng village, the hard-liners’ base of military operations for the last eight years. They claim that more than 3,000 pro-government forces are in the area.
The area of Anlong Veng is made up of many villages that have lived under the control of the Khmer Rouge for years. It extends south from the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province and is believed to be home to as many as 50,000 people.
The director of operations for RCAF General Staff, Chea Saran, speaking on the tarmac of Siem Reap Military Airport on Wednesday morning, confirmed the government is seeking a peaceful option before it strikes.
“The government can capture Ta Mok anytime we want, but we don’t want to shell the families of the soldiers,” he said. The military is in contact with the guerrillas by radio, Preap Tann said.
A strike was planned for this week, but difficulty in securing defections has delayed any military action, RCAF officials said.
The military will reinforce its position in the next week before any attack is launched, Chea Saran said. A defector command base has been set up in the zone of Andong Bey, just south of Anlong Veng village, he said.
The rebels are believed to be holed up in a zone called “Two Hundred Mountains,” about 15 km north of Anlong Veng village.
Skirmishes have persisted in Anlong Veng since the rebel leaders, including Ta Mok, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Pol Pot, fled their command base just outside of Anlong Veng village.
But the military has not secured the area around Anlong Veng village and Andong Bey zone.
“Some parts of Anlong Veng are not safe,” Preap Tann said.
Supplies and reinforcements are being trucked up from O Bai Tap, approximately 50 km south of Anlong Veng village. Supplies and soldiers are being dumped in O Bai Tap on a daily basis by helicopter from Siem Reap and trucks from Choam Khsan town in Preah Vihear province.
The supply route north to Andong Bey from Siem Reap has been secured, Preap Tann said, although the road is in poor condition. Soldiers in Andong Bey have been ordered to eject snipers from the area, remove land mines and clear a landing area for helicopters, Chea Saran said.