Thailand and Malaysia have begun a joint operation aimed at wiping out guerrilla sanctuaries along their border.
Thailand and Malaysia have begun a joint operation aimed at wiping out guerrilla sanctuaries along their border. Troops have blasted a major Communist base in the jungle of Betong Salient.
SYNOPSIS: Air and ground forces have combined for a secret operation, code named "Secret Ray". The troops have penetrated 10 miles (16 kilometres) inside Thai territory where about 2,000 members of the outlawed Communist Party of Malaya are based.
They've operated from there for more than a decade.
The operation is controlled from a joint base camp set up following an agreement between Malaysia and Thailand earlier this year. Shaky relations between the two countries had earlier hampered anti-guerrilla offensives.
The major priority is to destroy guerrilla camps and food dumps and to seal off the infiltration routes. Open clashes are unlikely because the government troops are a considerably superior force. Malaysian jet fighters have been strafing suspected Communist positions to clear the way for the ground troops. The Thais claim a dozen guerrillas killed and another two dozen injured in the initial raids. Smaller offensives were staged last month.
The Betong Salient is 200 square miles (520 square kilometres) of hilly jungle. It's thick, dark and humid and latticed by a deadly network of bobby traps.
The work of the ground troops is hard and slow. Operation controllers say guerrillas appeared to have moved out from the major base and taken shelter in nearby villages and ravines. Meanwhile police in Thailand say they've smashed an underground network aimed at fomenting a full-scale Communist insurgency in Malaysia.