As the communist stranglehold tightens around the Khmer capital of Phnom Penh, almost succeeding in cutting off imported food supplies, the city is depending more and more on home-grown rice from the rich agricultural farmlands of the north-west, near Battambang, 170 miles (275 Km) from the capital.
GV Troops and boy soldiers walking through village (3 shots)
CU & GV Soldier climbing tree to observation tower (3 shots)
SV Soldiers climbing into bunker
CU Boy soldier with hand-grenades on tunic
HB Troops behind barricade ZOOM into SV Helmets on posts
Initials ES. 23.56 ES. 0.25
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Background: As the communist stranglehold tightens around the Khmer capital of Phnom Penh, almost succeeding in cutting off imported food supplies, the city is depending more and more on home-grown rice from the rich agricultural farmlands of the north-west, near Battambang, 170 miles (275 Km) from the capital.
The rice is brought tot Phnom Penh along Highway Five. About 30 miles (50 km) from the capital, the communists are holding an eight-mile (14 km) strip of the vital road. Five government positions have been established to try and reopen the road, but they have so far had no success, and are themselves under constant attack.
Our cameraman visited the southernmost position, near the village of Sala Lek Pram. Two days before his visit on Wednesday (11 April) another post two miles (3.2 kms) away, manned by 200 government troops, was overrun by communist forces. Nothing more has been heard about the 200 troops. On Tuesday night, all five government posts suffered casualties of about sixty wounded and ten dead.
In Phnom Penh itself, a handful of rice costs 100 riels (20 pence sterling), the average daily industrial wage. The basic foodstuff is now officially rationed to 300 grammes (10 ounces) a day.
SYNOPSIS: In the Khmer Republic, five government positions have been established on Highway Five north of Phnom Penh. The troops are there to protect the capital's supplies of rice, which are brought along the highway from the rich farmlands of the north-west. So far they have not been successful in their aim. Communist troops now surround the positions, and are in control of an eight-mile stretch of the vital road.
This soldier is climbing to a watch-tower in the most southern government position, about 30 miles from Phnom Penh. Normally he would wait until nightfall before climbing to the treetop tower, but the presence of the cameraman gave rise to elation among the troops. His visit on Wednesday was the first they had from the outside for two months. Such light-heartedness is typical among the hard-pressed troops. Only two nights before these pictures were taken, another government position only two miles away had been overrun by communist forces. The fate of the 200 troops manning the position is still unknown.
Many of the troops defending the highway are very young. In Phnom Penh itself, rice is rationed to ten ounces a day. Just a handful of the staple foodstuff now costs a day's wages.