In the last few days South Vietnamese Marines have been in action very near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
In the last few days South Vietnamese Marines have been in action very near the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. Operating from the key ferry town of Neak Luong, the South Vietnamese have mounted a series of operations deep into Cambodia.
The South Vietnamese Marines face not only the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, but the long-standing enmity between the Cambodian and Vietnamese races. While the civilian Vietnamese living in Cambodian have generally welcomed the South Vietnamese troops, the Vietnamese villagers have also been carefully interrogated in case their sympathies lie with the North.
In the war in Vietnam the Marines have learned the advantages of helicopter support, and throughout this operation, which covered more than 12 miles (20 Kilometre) during the day, helicopters manned by South Vietnamese continually swept the area at low level reporting all activity.
Neak Luong, the centre for the Vietnamese forces operating in Cambodia, has taken on the character of a Vietnamese town. Hundreds of Cambodian fled from the North Vietnamese when they occupied the area, some were killed during the battle, and then more left with the arrival of the South Vietnamese. Most of the remaining Cambodian are food vendors, and they are accepting the Vietnamese piaster as a unit of currency.
Because so many Cambodian have left, including all Government officials, the town is all but deserted except for the Vietnamese troops. Outside the town on Neak Luong's small dirt air-strip the shiny American-built helicopters of the South Vietnamese Marines are in stark contrast to the inevitable Cambodian ox-carts carrying food into the town.