Air strikes and artillery backed up Thai ground troops Wednesday in a fierce battle to repel Vietnamese units that crossed the Thai-Cambodian border in a push against a Cambodian guerrilla base along the embattled frontier, the Thai military reported.
Thai air force fighter-bombers flew missions against about 1,000 Vietnamese who crossed the northern Cambodian border Tuesday in two places, Thai army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Narudon Dejpradiyuth, told a news conference.
He said more than 60 Vietnamese soldiers were killed in the fighting, while Thai losses were two killed and 15 wounded. No independent confirmation was immediately available.
The main Vietnamese incursion, in which about 800 troops were involved, was aimed at surrounding the Cambodian resistance base called Green Hill, about two miles across the border from the Thai village of Tatum, the Thai military said.
Thai military and resistance sources said the anti-Vietnamese guerrillas continued to hold the base, but details were sketchy. The base, which is perched on a cliff and ringed with land mines, is defended by as many as 5,000 Cambodian guerrillas loyal to Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who heads a three-party resistance coalition recognized by the United Nations as Cambodia’s legal government.
Narudon said that in addition to the Vietnamese who crossed the border near Green Hill, 200 others crossed up to three miles inside Sisaket province at a point 60 miles to the east.
The general said Thai forces will “battle to the death” to dislodge the intruders.
The Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in December, 1978, and installed a protege government in Phnom Penh led by Heng Samrin. Now, in their most successful dry-season offensive of the six-year war, they are driving to wipe out all the guerrilla bases in the “liberated zone” and seal the 450-mile Thai-Cambodian border.
Besides the attack on Green Hill, Vietnamese troops on Tuesday overran the camps of Sanror Changan and Dong Rak, about 40 miles northeast of the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet, Thai military sources said.