CAMBODIA: MILITARY STALEMATE LIKELY IN 1995

Created: 1/6/1995

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

of East Asian Analysis

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Cambodia: Military Stalemate Likely5

The limited objectives of the government and Khmer Rouge make continued stalemate likely5 and also reflect their inability to overcome fundamental weaknesses.

The governments miliary reform

program announced last June has made ittue headway so far. and Cambodian officials say they are hesitant to address die army's problems more forcefully because ihey do not want an alienated army or officer corps toolitical threat to the government.

Both sides are pursuing limited military strategies asry season unfolds:

army, determined to

avoio rasiajor ury season ucicais, rs tunducting limited attacks on isolated guerrilla positions in the Cambodian interior, while offering amnesty to guerrillas who defect The army so far has made some Umitcd gains and has also demonstrated the ability to defend vital areas, such as the nation's second-largest city, Batdambang.

The Khmer Rouge has launched numerous small attacks on government outposts and supply lines, staging most of them out of their strongholds in the border provinces of Batdambang. Banteay Mcanchcy. Preah Vihear and idai Mcanchcy.]-

The military situation could become more volatile and provide either the Khmer Rouge or the government opportunities lo make more significant military gains if:

A coup or political split in Phnom Penh distracts and weakens thethe guerrillas to make military and political gains in importantthe countrywithin the government coalition

are still intense.

Thailand closes the border to the Khmer Rouge

vould

reduce their mobility, worsen meirsuppiy sinimnm, jiki cwnaheir border strongholds at Pailin and Phnom Melai vulnerable to Cambodian attack. p

^

Government Conducting Limited Attacks4 Ended...

The government appears determined not to repeat last year's disastrous dry season defeats to the Khmer Rouge.)

f the Khmer Royal Armed Forces (KRAF):

Captured the mountain stronghold of Phnom Vor in Kampot ProvinceOctober, an area that had not been in government handsfrom France in

rcii

Vor, the base from which Khmer Rouge forces had kidnapped and killedthree Westerners in the last six months, was surrounded by nearlytroops but was not captured until Khmer Rougegovernment troops bypass minefields defending the

a guerrilla base at Phnom Kulen intdarmountainous area northeast of tbe provincial capital-incommander of thedivtfRM Controlling me case ocrcctea, mowing the army to

The army is also seeking to blunt Khmer Rouge thrusts before they develop into threatening attacks. Phnom Penh in the last six months has demonstrated an ability to recover from initial setbacks and defend vital areas. For example, the army:

forces in Preah Vihcar Province in September,hmer Rouge advance and retaking twoand Chey Scn-that were Initially overrun. After the guerrillas again showed signs of increasing activity in the province in October, government units launched attacks along the border and may have entered Thai territory to srrike Khmer

Rouge strongholds in early November.

memocindurureparedandbe dinctcd Ki I

ice of Eail Aiim AiuJyib.raeno and queries

Blocked guerrilla efforts in early December io sei up another mountain base at Phnom Chi along the border of Kampong Thum and Kracheh Provinces, according to local press.

While the Khmer Rouge Fights on in the Northwest

The guerrillas are taking advantage of the government's more cautious strategynew attacks in the country's northwest border provinces. From itsat Anlong Veng, Pailin. and Phnom Malai. the Khmer Rouge sincehas conducted small guerrilla attacks on government outposts andguerrillas:

their activities in early September in Prcah Vihearof their provisional government-moving south from the borderinto the easternin the province has stabilized since mid-September,'

concerned that Prcah

Vihear and its isolatedopulation ofwillempting target.

launched several attacks in eastern Batdambang Province in late September and have continued offensive operations there through December. The guerrillas have concentrated their efforts on Banan District, west of the provincial capital, somenmes operating in units of moreroops. The guerrillas are alsooad and transporting more supplies and ammunition in the district-

jthis activity has pTovincia

forced civilians to flee their homes and move into the provincial capital, demonstrating the guerrillas' ability to create insecurity near Cambodia's second-largest city.

Harassed government units trying to protectey supply lineanteay Mcanchcy Province. In late December, the Khmer Rouge drove off government forces and captured territory around the road in Thmar Pok District!

The guerrillas' concentration of effort in the northwest and the nature ofso far confirms, in ourmodest

Khmer Rouge strategy forry

guerrillas are trying to expand their hold on territory in Preah Vihearcapital of their self-declared provisional government-and Dying to protect their base at Anlong Veng from another government attack. Guerrilla attacks on villages to abduct peasants and bum their homes have become more frequent,:

and suggest to us an efforteakened Khmer Rouge to reduce

the confidence of the populace in the government and demonstrate the danger of

opposing the insurgents, i

Looking Ahead: Continued Stalemate Likely5

The recent pattern of government and Khmer Rouge activity strengthens our judgment--held since the withdrawal of UNTAC inthat neither side is organized or strong enough toecisive advantage. On the government side, we continue to see signs that the army's performance is being underminedumber of serious problems:

Officers at all levels are not being held accountable

:

Corruption and poor discipline. Local commanders have made arrangements with their Khmer Rouge counterparts in the past to avoid bloodshed and maximize profits, and the joint attackrain in Kampot Province last July thai resulted in the capture of three Westerners by the

guerrillas suggests the practice continues j

Government units also engage in banditry, shaking down Khmer and foreigner alike. '

Soldiers have also set up illegal checkpoints to rob travelers on thcTew traversable roads in Cambodia. The Cambodian Government says It has increased efforts to suppress banditry on the roads,hai worker repairingas reportedly killed in Novemberovernment soldiernit that was not supposed to be patrolling the roud.

Cambod as roads, bridges, afw raiifoaos arc in poor condition and vulnerable to Khmer Rouge interdiction. |

Ithe Khmer Rouge, while capable of choosing the location aad bubal intensrTy ornghting. also faces serious limitations that prevent the group from taking advantage of the government's weakness:

Declining strength. Defections and desertions that began after theboycotted the UN-supervised election in3 appear tosince October have

contributed to the loss of several guermu

beople are not joining the group voluntarily, ihc

Khmer Rouge's continued promotion of armed struggle has erodedsupport;Cambodians are exhausted from

war and want peace and reconsbuction. Moreover, the Khmer Rouge became even more politically isolated after being oudawed by the government last July; the law passed by the National Assembly also threatens stiff prison sentences to guerrillas who fail to turn themselves in.

Reduced revenues. The group has yet to recover financially from the major interruption in revenues it suffered when government; miring andperations around Pailin last March.

Wrrl_

The government's military reformlast June-is intended to improve the army's performance and to secure foreign military assistance from countries that have predicated aid on signs of change.

reform plan aims to cut the size of the army and reduce hs high ratio ot officers toetailed implementation scheme has yet to emerge. The plan also fails to adequately address the KRAFs two most serious problems:

Corruption. The program does not say how it will fund the higher salaries

which we believe are needed to reduce corruption. |

mediocre and bloated officer corps. No provision has been made to ensure that incompetent officers are weeded out, good commanders are retained, or the level of competence at the senior level is raised through more intensive training.

Civilian and military officials say they are hesitant to act in these areaschanges could destabilize the army andolitical threat toparticular,

deeper changes risk alienating the officer corps, whose loyalty was crucial to the government's ability to surviveuly coup attempt I

Two Potential Wild Cards To Watch

Our baseline judgment that neither side can make significant battlefield gains would change if either of two developments occurred:

Sieret

On ihc positive side, Thailandustained effort to seal ihc border to ihc Khmer Rouge,'

Guerrilla strongholds in nordiwest Cambodia could become increasingly vulnerable to KRAF attack and the guerrillas* tactical mobility could be severely resrricted.

On the negative side, thereuccessful coup in Phnom Penh, or a

breakdown in the governing coalition that splits the military-j

rivalries within the government are still intense, bluer

: could distract army commanders and weaken KRAF units, allowing the Khmer Rouge to break out of its relative isolation in the northwest and threaten Phnom Penh's control of more important parts of the counffy.risis could also uwlerminc the credibility of the government and give theew opportunity to make political gains among the populace.

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