THE Cambodian government has launched its biggest and most coordinated offensive since the United Nations peacekeeping operation began. Phnom Penh troops appear headed toward the Khmer Rouge headquarters of Pailin, UN officials said yesterday.
Government soldiers are forcing an undetermined number of villagers and recently returned refugees to transport ammunition and attack the Khmer Rouge, UN spokesman Eric Berman says.
Mr. Berman added that government soldiers have been moving toward Pailin, northwest of Phnom Penh, for weeks, but stepped up efforts on Friday.
A military adviser to the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen said the forces were not targeting Pailin, but were trying to push Khmer Rouge guerrillas back into the jungles so they would stop shelling villages under government control.
Gen. Pan Thai also denied forcing villagers or refugees to fight.
Although fighting until now has primarily been between Khmer Rouge and government troops, Berman said the faction loyal to Prince Norodom Sihanouk was also reported to have clashed with government soldiers in central Cambodia.