The battle for Phnom Penh...and there's increasing Government confidence that the Communist forces' grip on?
The battle for Phnom Penh...and there's increasing Government confidence that the Communist forces' grip on the capital has been broken. On Saturday (II August), the Cambodian High Command announced that troops moving out of the city were meeting little resistance. Fighting around the city had tapered off.
The command said the communists had been weakened by intensive U.S. bombing raids, which are due to end on 15 August. The strikes are gradually moving out from the city areas and into the surrounding countryside.
However, some observers say it's not certain that the communists have retreated because of heavy casualties inflicted by the air strikes. They could simply have withdraw to wait until the raids end.
The Government is reported to be optimistic about the prospect of an early peace settlement. Foreign Minister Long Boret told Reuter there would be "a batter atmosphere" for agreement after the bombing ceases. The Minister said that after that the North Vietnamese could no longer claim they were assisting a fight against foreign aggressors. There would be no excuse for them to stay.
SYNOPSIS: Near Phnom Penh, in the Khmer Republic, signs of war are still very much in evidence -- despite a government announcement that the siege of the capital has been broken.
The town of Koki, 32 miles from the capital, and on Highway one, is all but deserted. Townspeople fled as the fighting and United States air strikes intensified. The only real activity is military.
The Cambodian High Command says that as Government troops move out from the capital, they're new meeting little resistance from the guerrillas. The command believes the air raids -- due to end on August 15 -- weakened the enemy, and forced the retreat.
As the troops move out, one of their main aims is to clear Highway One -- the strategically vital read which eventually connects Phnom Penh and Saigon. The Mekong River -- Phnom Penh's life-line -- runs parallel to the highway and is susceptible to rocket attack. Therefore, reinforcement of the area before 15 August is a top Government priority.
The Government claims to have succeeded as far as the river port, Neuk Loeung -- but at the moment the highway is open only to heavily escorted military conveys.