The commander-in-chief of the Khmer Armed Forces -General Sesthene Fernandez (pronounced sos-t???n fer-nan-days) has taken?
The commander-in-chief of the Khmer Armed Forces -General Sesthene Fernandez (pronounced sos-t???n fer-nan-days) has taken over personal command on the northern front only 10kms from Phnom-Penh city.
This is in keeping with a new policy expounded by Fernandez himself, that the most senior Khmer High Command officers should take field command on vital fronts as an example to their troops and the people that they are determined to fight on, and prepared to risk their lives.
Altogether there were six high-ranking generals at the frontline command post, which was set up less than 300 metres from the fighting.
Commander of the troops in action was General ???th Suong (pron. it soong), who leads the 1st infantry Division.
Light observation planes kept the generals informed of the situation in a visual sense - which was possible on this occasion due to the open plain on which the battle is being fought.
Despite the open country, there was still enough cover for the insurgents to dig themselves in to heavily fortified bunkers.
They seemed to have an unlimited supply of mortars and anti-tank rockets, and used them freely. The command post of General Fernandez took three rounds which landed less than 50 metres from the galaxy of generals - one only 20 metres from General Fernandez himself.
The government forces, however, were also well supplied, and "bunches" of 60mm mortars were carried to the front, where they were launched from shallow one-man bunkers by an individual soldier, or soldiers. The armoured personnel carriers were also in the forefront, and in fact were ahead of some of the troops, firing their giant 106mm cannons and heavy machine-guns - in this case the 50-calibre machine-gun standard on the AR's.
Overhead, the air force, in their newly-acquired role of close support, pounded the insurgents' positions with their T28 fighter/bombers, followed up by helicopter gunships, which launched rockets into the dissidents bunkers, then strafed them with mini-guns - banks of machine-guns (4 in each bank) - making the unreal "rasping" sound familiar to frontline soldiers on both sides The Khmer artillery - commanded directly by General Littaye Suon (??? Littaye Suon) (chief artillery officer for the Khmer Army) from only 300 metres back - pounded the insurgents; frontline only 100 metres ahead of the Khmer govt. AR???s.
The dissidents, however, were hitting back. Incoming mortars and small rockets landed constantly all along the line, inflicting casualties.
The wounded govt. soldiers were evacuated immediately - also a new policy put into action over the last few weeks - i.e. to evacuate wounded from the frontline immediately - whether under direct fire or nor.
All these factors: the presence of the highest-ranking commanders at the frontline; the close support of the armoured units and airforce plus artillery; and the guaranteed quick evacuation of wounded from the battlefield ... have had the effect of inspiring the Khmer govt. forces to greater efforts. They have never been under such constant and heavy attack, and at the same time they have never fought better. The entire operation on this northern, north-western, and western front(s) is not only to drive the insurgents back, but to clear the rocket-launch area here. It is from this general area that the latest rockets have been launched against Phnom-Penh.