Khmer Rouge 'for king and country'

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The Independent Online
PHNOM PENH (AP) - The president of the Khmer Rouge announced his group's support for Cambodia's new king yesterday as fighting between the guerrillas and government forces was reported in the countryside.

Khieu Samphan read a short statement after arriving in Phnom Penh for an overnight stay, saying he had come to pay homage to King Norodom Sihanouk. He also declared his group's support for the country's new constitution, ratified last week, which allowed King Sihanouk to return to the throne 38 years after abdicating to enter politics.

The government has demanded that the guerrilla group recognise the new constitution and government and give up the territory it controls. Khieu Samphan's statement of support stopped short of recognition, and did not deal with the question of territorial control.

A half-dozen guards from the Royal Palace, armed with machine- guns, kept journalists back from the Khmer Rouge leader and prevented them from asking questions by kicking them.

But as Khieu Samphan was making his way to a waiting palace car, he denied his group was still attacking the government's armed forces. 'We are not fighting anyone,' he said before ducking into the car. 'We are defending ourselves.'

After hearing of Khieu Samphan's statement, the deputy information minister, Ek Sereywath, said the Khmer Rouge should show its sincerity with actions. 'They are still fighting,' he said. In one of the incidents, the guerrilla group seized a government base last week in the north- western province of Banteay Meanchey and burnt hundreds of homes in government-controlled villages, he said.

In Bangkok, a Thai army spokesman said yesterday that Khmer Rouge guerrillas attacked Cambodian government positions in the Oddar Meanchey district of Siem Reap province, causing some 1,000 Cambodians to flee across the Thai border about 1km away. Lieutenant-General Anusorn Krisnaserani said seven wounded government soldiers also crossed the border and were taken to a civilian hospital at Surin, about 340km (220 miles) north-east of Bangkok.