Vietnam, which is engaged in a bitter border war with Cambodia, is reporting that a rash of insurrections has erupted across that country over the past several weeks. Many of the alleged revolts are said to have been carried out by regular army units.
Analysts in Washington say they have no way of confirming the reports put out by Vietnamese media and are suspicious that Hanoi is orchestrating a Cambodian revolutionary movement to bring pressure on Phnom Penh to settle their violent dispute.
In an acknowledgement that at least some Cambodians have gone into opposition. Phnom Penh has begun denouncing "collaborationists" and "running dogs" who are helping the Vietnamese integrate Cambodia "into the Vietnamese-dominated, abominable Indochina federation." Cambodia has long claimed that the border conflict has its roots in Hanoi's attempt to reduce it to a satellite, as it has done with Laos.
Analysts hesitate to guess whether Hanoi may want to press for the downfall of the government of Premier Pol Pot. To go that far would risk further deterioration of Vietnam's already tense relations with China, a strong political backer of Cambodia.
On the other hand, there is very little support elsewhere in the world for Phnom Pehn. It has made itself an international parish with its harsh treatment of its people. One analysts expressed the sentiments of many who have been watching the situation in Indochina when he said, "Hanoi would be doing the world a favor" if it could bring down the Cambodian government.
The reports of the insurrections, always at tributed to Cambodian defectors or prisoners of war, have been coming out two or three times a week since mid-June. At that time a statement reputedly made by a former Cambodian battalion commander said that "revolutionary forces . . . have established a base to fight to fight against" Phnom Penh. The base was said to be in Cambodia's Military Zone 203, which intelligence sources believe is near Mimot, a Cambodian town about six miles from the Vietnamese border.
Since then unrisings are said to have taken place at scores of towns and villages in Cambodia. Most of them are in the eastern part of the country, places such as Snoul, Neak Luong and Svag Rieng. They have also included other parts of Cambodia, such as Battambang Province in the far west and Kampong Thom in the north.
One former Cambodian soldier told of civilians, including civil servants, plantation workers and peasants turning on "cruel cadres" and "exterminating" them with bombs and clubs.
In what may be attempts to give the revolutionary movement the appearance of broad political support, it has been endorsed by a Buddhist monk and by a community of 5,000 Cambodian refugees living in Vietnam's Tayninh Province.
Only one individual has been named in connection with the uprisings. Ta Phoem, otherwise unidentified, was said by one prisoner of war to have been the leader of an uprising in the Neak Luong area. The POW also said that loyalists cadres told him and his comrades that Ta Phoem "wanted freedom . . . wanted to salvage Buddhism . . . wanted to topple the [Cambodian Communist Party] and put [Cambodia] under Vietnamese control."
Observers expect that if the revolutionary movement is to be developed beyond a hit-and-miss affair a formal organization will declare itself the leader of the rebellion and set up a base, presumably near the Vietnamese border if not inside that country where it can be protected by Hanoi's forces. Another logical step, they say, would be the appearance of a clandestine radio station identifying itself as the voice of the movement.
The analysts believe that Hanoi is prepared to turn the pressure of the rebel movement up or down depending on Phnom Penh's willingness to negotiate their quarrel.