siem reap town – About 30 former Khmer Rouge civilians and soldiers arrived at the Siem Reap Military Airport on Monday, one day after a pre-dawn attack by alleged hard-line guerrillas left at least seven people dead and one infant badly burned.
The malaria-stricken soldiers, injured civilians and soldiers and their families all said they woke up Sunday in Anlong Veng to the sound of B-40 rockets and AK-47 assault rifles.
The apparent hard-line Khmer Rouge attack on a village of some 1,000 people less than 2 km from the center of Anlong Veng village was cold-blooded, they reported after disembarking from a morning military transport helicopter flight. It has deepened fears among residents of the remote northern areas that there will be further raids .
Soldiers said this attack was the closest that hard-line guerrillas have come to the former Khmer Rouge military base since a split in the rebel movement in March delivered the outpost into government hands from military chief Ta Mok.
At least seven people were killed during the fighting, one infant was left badly burned and dozens more people were wounded, soldiers said. Some civilians were shot at close range, they reported. It is unclear how many others may have later died.
Two Japanese photographers who were in Anlong Veng village at the time identified the dead as three women, a boy, a government soldier and two Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
Military officials on Monday said the fighting was 12 km from Anlong Veng village and that the death toll was at least eight.
One Khmer Rouge soldier was arrested before the guerrillas retreated, taking with them looted goods and people, soldiers said. “Some people were kidnapped and taken into the jungle by Ta Mok’s forces,” Sergeant Som Vanna added.
Som Vanna cradled an orphaned 4-month-old infant. The baby was found in a bunker hole with his parents, who had been shot at close range, he said. However, the baby was not discovered immediately after the fighting because it was covered in blood and still clutched by his dead mother, Som Vanna said.
The attack on Kong Bing village, 2 km southwest of Anlong Veng village, began with a thunder of artillery and gunfire, waking people for several kilometers around. “It was really loud,” said Som Vanna, who was sleeping 3 km away from Kong Bing.
Soldiers were first to flee when the attack started at about 5 am, according to the photographers, who were sleeping near the school in Anlong Veng village. Hundreds of fleeing civilians followed, swimming and wading across a pond, the photographers said.
“Soldiers ran first, leaving villagers behind,” Ko Sasaki said. “People were blaming the soldiers for not fighting.”
It took reinforcements from Anlong Veng village more than half an hour to reach the scene by foot, the photographers said.
By the end of the fighting three hours later, the dirt trail to the embattled village was bloodstained, the photographers reported. Angry Anlong Veng residents put a noose around a dead Khmer Rouge soldier’s neck and dragged his body by hand around the village, the photographers said.
Anlong Veng was quiet on Monday, but residents were concerned. “We’re still worried,” said a 13-year-old girl who accompanied her injured father on the helicopter. “But people have to go back because they have land there and nowhere else.”