Kompong Speu is a strategic town on the main highway between the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and the country's only major port Kompong Som (formerly Sihanoukville).
Kompong Speu is a strategic town on the main highway between the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and the country's only major port Kompong Som (formerly Sihanoukville). Last week it was recaptured by South Vietnamese troops and handed over to Cambodian Forces, but Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese forces are said to be regrouping in strength in the area.
From a command post in Kompong Speu, 35 miles (56 kms) South-West of Phnom Penh, South Vietnamese officers direct a new campaign attempting to clear Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese forces from the hills lying further to the South-West.
Control of Kompong Speu has now been handed over to the Cambodian Army by the South Vietnamese who recaptured it after several days of bitter fighting. Most of the southern part of the once attractive small town is now a shattered wreck. Many buildings were destroyed during the fighting in which South Vietnamese troops and armoured units cleared out North Vietnamese regiment and two Companies of the Cambodian Communist guerrillas-the Khmer Rouge.
The South Vietnamese say they seized more than 4,000 individual weapons including many old rifles but these were originally seized by the Viet-Cong from the Cambodians.
The number of enemy killed, say the South Vietnamese, was 148 and the dead still litter the town and the paddy fields nearby. The Cambodians cremated some of the dead in Kompong Spau, but it will take much money and time to restore the town to normality and there is still always the risk of another battle to take the town.
The Cambodian Army now guards the town, but not in impressive strength and if the South Vietnamese pull out it could become extremely vulnerable. The Cambodians still lack equipment and expertise, and the few remaining civilians are retrieving as may belongings as possible and leaving the area.
The price of the South Vietnamese staying and trying to guarantee the security of the vital highway could be high one in terms of casualties. Four vietnamese dead and several wounded were the result of just a light engagement about half a mile (0.4 kms) from the command post.
The most severely injured soldiers were sent back to South Vietnam by helicopter. Two of the men haemorrhaging badly on the floor, still wearing rough field dressings, illustrate the stretched communications of the South Vietnamese Army when operating so far inside Cambodia.
The men had a journey of 2 1/2 hours before reaching Cantho in the South Vietnam Delta area where there is a hospital capable of dealing with their injuries.