Town defies Hun Sen

Fierce fighting continued between rival Cambodian factions last night amid conflicting reports about who controlled the remote border town of O'Smach, where forces loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the country's ousted co-premier, have been battling to prevent their final bastion falling into the hands of Cambodia's powerful leader, Hun Sen, writes Matthew Chance in Bangkok.

His well-armed and better- trained soldiers, backed by tanks and artillery, have been steadily advancing on the royalists and their Khmer Rouge allies, since staging a bloody coup d'etat last month which forced Prince Ranariddh's troops into the jungles to regroup.

At nightfall yesterday, machine gunfire and the dull thud of incoming artillery rounds and mortars rocked O'Smach, sending more refugees fleeing across the nearby border with Thailand, where they are being housed at emergency camps.

On Tuesday, Cambodia's information minister, Khieu Kanharith, claimed government forces had captured O'Smach and driven out the royalists. But actual events on the ground suggest that is not the case.

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