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 government's miliary reform

program announced last June has made little headway so far. and Cambodian officials say they are hesitant to address the army's problems more forcefully because they 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 rasrajor 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 limited 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. Prcah Vihear and tdar Mcanchcy.

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

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

are still intense.

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Government Conducting Limited Attacks4 Ended...

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

I 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

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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 thediviiTM controlling inc oase ocTeCtea, mowing the army to capture

The army is also seeking io 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 Vihear 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 strike Khmer

Rouge strongholds in early November.

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Blocked guerrilla efforts in early December to sei up another mountain base at Phnom Chi along the border of Kampong Thum and Krachehccording 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:

Increased their activities in early September in Preah Vihearof their provisional government-moving south from the borderinto the easternAlthough the

situau'on in the province has stabilized sinceconcerned that Prcah

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

Khmer Rouge strategy forry season.

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

and suggest to us an efforteakened Khmer Rouge to reduce

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the confidence of the populace in the government and demonstrate the danger of opposing the insurgents. |

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 sn-ong enough toecisive advantage. On die 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 attackain in Kampot Province last July that 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. '

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Soldiers have also set up illegal checkpoints to rob travelers on the lew 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 panelling the road.

condition and vulnerable

Cambodia's roads, bridges, ana raiiroaos are in poor to Khmer Rouge interdiction.

Khmer Rouge, while capable of choosing the location and initialighting, also faces serious limitations that prevent the group from taking advantage of the government's weakness:

continuing, contributed

Declining strength. Defections and desertions that began after the Khmer Rouge boycotted the UN-supervised election in3 appear to be

defections since October have to the toss ot several guerrilla uitHigholds-andl-

rhc

are not joining the groupRouge's continued promotion of armed struggle has erodedCambodians are exhausted from

war and want peace and reconstruction. Moreover, the Khmer Rouge became even more politicaUy isolated after being outlawed 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.

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Reduced revenues. The group has yet to recover financially from the major interruption in revenues it suffered when government forces overran its, gem nurdng and logging operations around Pailin last March.

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Military Reform Unlikely To Alter Balance

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 its 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:

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On ihc positive side, Thailandustained effort to sea) the 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 restricted.

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 undermine the credibility of the government and give theew opportunity to make political gains among the populace.

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