The Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, is preparing itself for a large-scale assault by Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese Forces who are now pressing on three sides of the capital.
The Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, is preparing itself for a large-scale assault by Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese Forces who are now pressing on three sides of the capital. The isolation of the city is becoming increasingly critical as the date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops approaches.
The 600,000 residents of Phnom Penh fear an imminent all-out bid by Pro-Sihanouk forces to capture the city. The price of rice has rise by 50 per cent as housewives fear an impending seige. Phnom Penh's supplies of rice from the North West cannot reach the capital now by road or rail. Fuel supplies are also very low and the route from the fuel terminal in Kompong Sem (formerly Sihanoukville) is also cut off.
The military look predominates throughout the city. Sandbag filling and barbed wire entanglements are priority tasks for the Cambodian Army.
Public buildings are being turned into military strongholds and since the general mobilisation announced last week, training goes on in the parks, schoolyards and other public places. Even the famous Phnom Penh Museum is now fortified.
Railway communications are cut off. The line to the deep-water port of Kompong Som (Sihanoukville) was ??? long ago; and last week the one to Battambang on the Thailand frontier was blocked. Now the railway station lies deserted.
To the east, the Mekong River is patrolled day and night by a flotilla of South Vietnamese gunboats. The gunboats are keeping an alert on possible infiltrators and also removing many of the estimated 8,000 Vietnamese refugees waiting to sail to South Vietnam.
On the three other sides, the main highway approaches are guarded by roadblocks. Vehicles must pass through makeshift barriers and both passengers and cargo undergo careful scrutiny by the ???. Most of the roads out of Phnom Penh are closed and the few that are open are difficult and open only to limited traffic. Artillery pieces, armoured trucks and tanks can now be seen around the city, although their number is small.
The prime target in the city will be the airport - now ringed with barbed wire. It is the only one in the country open to commercial traffic an all flights to Europe are booked up. The airport is vital as it is the only base for Cambodia's tiny air force, and with land-communications to the fuel terminal at Kompong Som cut, supplies will have to be flown in to the capital.
The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Melvin Laird, said in London recently that the deadline for the withdrawal of American forces from Cambodia definitely would be met. The deadline does not apply to the South Vietnamese forces.