New anti-Vietnamese coalition gets home base thanks to Khmer Rouge
Bangkok, Thailand — The new Kampuchean (Cambodian) coalition government will have a home on its own territory only because of a three-year campaign fought by the merciless soldiers of the former Pol Pot government.
Without that bridgehead in western Kampuchea, held in the main by 30,000 Khmer Rouge guerrillas, the coalition would be no more than a government in exile.
A headquarters for the coalition on national territory will give it much-needed credibility and influence. But the price may be more bloody fighting.
The likelihood of intensified warfare and another reign of Khmer Rouge mass killings are daunting prospects for Southeast Asia.
''No killing between Khmers'' is the new slogan proclaimed by the Khmer Rouge leaders. But the real leader and military commander, Pol Pot, still lurks in the jungle.
With the onset of the annual monsoon the guns are silent in Kampuchea after an intense campaign by the Vietnamese to drive the Khmer Rouge into Thailand.
Vietnam wanted to dislodge the guerrillas not just for military reasons but chiefly to refute the former government's claim to control Cambodian territory.
Vietnam also attacked bases of the Khmer Peoples' National Liberation Front (KPNLF) who are partners in the coalition. Still the Khmer Rouge with 10 times more military strength was the prime target.
The dry season offensive opened with a Vietnamese vow to ''crush the Khmer Rouge this year.'' There followed the biggest campaign against the deposed government since Vietnamese forces overran Kampuchea 31/2 years ago.
This time the Vietnamese penetrated areas which were Khmer Rouge strongholds even before their national victory in 1975.
They used more heavy equipment than previously, including long-range artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers, support aircraft, and helicopters.
The Khmer Rouge were badly hurt in places, losing territory, soldiers, and supplies. But intelligence analysts say they have not been weakened significantly.
The KPNLF meanwhile were driven from their most important base at Sokh Sanh in southwest Kampuchea. They lost large quantities of medical supplies, food, clothing, and equipment like generators. Their casualties have not been revealed.
The KPNLF, however, are now back in the base following a Viet withdrawal.
The Vietnamese have also pulled back from captured Khmer Rouge territory because of the wet season. But this year they have not gone far.
They remain within striking distance of enemy positions. They are thought to have 85,000 troops near Khmer Rouge border positions.
Analysts do not predict a wet season lull but expect the Vietnamese to keep up the military pressure.