Thai forces fought for a third day to repulse Vietnamese troops who crossed the Thai-Cambodian border in an assault on a Cambodian resistance camp, and lightly armed guerrillas defending the cliff-top camp continued to hold out against their reinforced attackers, Thai military officials and Western diplomats said Thursday.
The Thai military reported Thursday morning that army troops supported by artillery and U.S.-supplied A-37 Dragonfly aircraft had recaptured three hills seized Tuesday by about 1,000 intruding Vietnamese soldiers on the Thai side of Cambodia’s northern border. Hundreds of Vietnamese were said to have been driven back across the border into Cambodia.
However, the Vietnamese counterattacked against Hill 361 on Thai soil behind the besieged Cambodian guerrilla base at Tatum, and the results of the battle were not immediately clear, Western diplomats said.
Thai authorities said 14 Thai soldiers and 15 Thai civilians had been killed in the three days of fighting, and that more than 70 Vietnamese troops had been killed.
The Thai military supreme commander, Gen. Arthit Kamlang-ek, accused the Vietnamese of deliberate aggression in attacking Thai military installations and defense lines with artillery and ground forces.
Vietnam dismissed the reported incursion as a fabrication and slander by Thailand.
In their most successful dry-season offensive along the border since invading Cambodia in December, 1978, the Vietnamese have overrun all but one of about 20 guerrilla bases on the Cambodian side of the 450-mile frontier since November.
The one base holding out is a fortress-like camp called Green Hill that sits on a high escarpment a couple of miles across the border from the Thai village of Tatum. While the camp may be the most defensible of the guerrilla bases along the border, it belongs to the weakest of the three resistance factions, that of former Cambodian monarch Prince Norodom Sihanouk.