Vietnam tries to split Kampuchea resistance
Vietnam has maintained the tempo of its latest dry-season offensive in Kampuchea (Cambodia) with the capture of another large resistance camp. The unusually large attack on only one of three guerrilla groups hints at a possible strategy to split the Western-backed coalition fighting Hanoi's six-year-long occupation of Kampuchea.
The fighting on the Thai-Kampuchean border is causing China to raise tension on its border with Vietnam.
The resistance camp, known to the Thais as Nong Samet and to the Khmers as Rithisen, was quickly captured on Dec. 25. Some 62,000 of its civilian inhabitants fled into Thailand, bringing the number of new refugees along the Thai side of the border to at least 100,000. A camp official was quoted Thursday as saying that at least 50 guerrillas and 85 civilians were killed in the attack.
Some fighting is said to be continuing around the camp, but the speed with which it was seized must be an embarrassment to the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), the noncommunist group which controls the camp.
The group's officials say that the Vietnamese attacking force numbered about 1,000 men and was supported by artillery, four T-54 tanks, and some armored personnel carriers. One officer in the camp recently said that Rithisen was defended by more than 2,000 fighters. Earlier this month the resistance forces in the camp received another 250 guns from Peking.
Attention is now shifting to the KPNLF headquarters at Ampil. The camp, defended by about half of the group's 15,000 troops, was almost captured earlier this year. It has reportedly been under artillery attack for most of Thursday. The camp's 23,000 civilian inhabitants were said today to be packed up and ready to leave.
Most guerrilla camps are not self-sufficiant in food. They are largely dependent on civilians living in the camps; many of these are their relatives. The civilian refugees are in turn fed by the United Nations Border Relief Organization. Once the civilians and guerrillas are separated, the guerrillas start to have food problems.