Siemreap Province, to the north west of Phnom Penh, is the only remaining province in the Khmer Republic to be under civilian rule.
Siemreap Province, to the north west of Phnom Penh, is the only remaining province in the Khmer Republic to be under civilian rule. With the exception of a small area around the town of Kirirom, this relatively affluent region, is loyal to the Lon No1 Government in Phnom Penh.
One result of that loyalty has been it is suggested, the formation of local units of people's armed militia, to provide additional defence for the inhabitants beyond that offered by the army of the Khmer Republic. The units consist of unpaid volunteers, numbering 10,000 in all and possessing between them some 7,000 rifles.
Teachers, workers, peasants, fishermen and students all volunteer to serve in the force, and most of them carry out their militia duties while they continue their day-to-day work. Fishermen fish with rifles tucked inside their jackets, peasants plough with M16s slung over their shoulder, and teachers teach with rifles hanging over the back of their desks. In this way life goes on with a certain air of normality.
The capital of the province -- Siemreap town -- stands in the frontline of the communist-led advance. From the ruins of Angkor, just four miles from the town, the insurgents make occasional forays into the town.
In one such foray two weeks ago, communist-led forces attacked Siemreap. Two battalions of man captured the strategic position of Krum Hill. Eventually, the insurgents were forced to withdraw, but not before they had lost 300 men, and, according to local sources, massacred 40 civilians.
The communist-led troops occupied Krum Hill Pagoda for six days. When they left several monks were found suffering from grenade injuries, and the head of the religious community was found dead. His funeral was attended by the entire population of Siemreap, including high-ranking Government army chiefs.
Visnews cameraman Lucien Coudoux was told of alleged atrocities committed by the temporary occupiers including the stabbing to death of women and children, the committing of sexual assaults and the mutilation of young girls.
SYNOPSIS: A village in the Siemreap province of the Khmer Republic 120 miles north west of Phnom Penh. A tranquil enough scene in the country's only remaining civilian-governed province.
This province -- which is relatively wealthy by Khmer standards is mostly loyal to the Lon No1 regime, with the exception of the area around Kirirom, which is controlled by forces supporting prince Sihanouk.
One result of their loyalty has been it is suggested, the formation of units of local armed militia. The militia consists of unpaid volunteers, numbering 10,000 in all, and possessing around 7,000 rifles. Their function is to protect the villages from infiltration and attack by anti-Government forces. Members of the militia come from all walks of provincial life, including students, peasants, teachers and in this case, fishermen.
For the villagers life goes on with a certain degree of normality. Under the watchful eye of the local militia this year's rice crop gets planted.
But certain precautions have to be taken -- such as ploughing with a M16 rifle slung over shoulder. Such measures add to communal confidence, even if they don't deter the communists.
For at the hospital in Siemreap are the victims of the latest clash between insurgents and Government forces. These monks were wounded by grenades during fighting earlier this month at Krum Hill overlooking Siemreap city. The monks were living in a pagoda on top of the hill.
The head of the religious community died in the fighting. The communist occupied the Pagoda, and after holding out for six days were eventually forced to withdraw. But before leaving our cameraman was told that the insurgents killed 40 civilians including the head monk.
The whole town of Siemreap turned out for the monk's funeral -- including high-ranking Government army officers. The towns-people claimed the insurgents stabbed women and children to death and mutilated young girls, before evacuating the hill.