Thailand asked the United States today to speed up arms deliveries, as Thai authorities reported a second air strike against Vietnamese troops who crossed the Thai-Cambodian border during their current offensive against Cambodian resistance groups.
Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanond said he made the request for accelerated weapons shipments in a meeting today with Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
Prem indicated that Wolfowitz agreed to the request in view of the growing tensions along the border and clashes between Thai and Vietnamese troops. Wolfowitz refused to give details of the request, saying only that he and Prem had "discussed the possibility of expediting military supplies" to Thailand.
In Washington, defense officials said the supplies to be shipped to Thailand included 155mm artillery, ammunition, trucks and personnel carriers, Reuter reported.
Wolfowitz, in Bangkok as part of an Asian tour, told reporters that from a visit to refugee sites near the border yesterday he drew the conclusion that the Vietnamese had deliberately shelled Cambodian civilians on Thai territory.
He said Thai military leaders told him that small units of intruding Vietnamese troops appeared to have pulled back across the Cambodian border.
The Army commander-in-chief, Gen. Arthit Kamlang-ek, made the same assertion today. He told reporters that the Vietnamese troops had been driven back by an air strike yesterday, the second since Monday.
Arthit said Thai Air Force planes bombed and strafed about 100 Vietnamese troops backed by tanks who had crossed about 200 yards into Thailand just north of Phnom Pra, a hill that straddles the volatile border. Vietnamese troops last week overran a Cambodian refugee settlement on the border in that area controlled by Communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas.
On Monday, two Thai F5E fighter planes used napalm in an effort to dislodge Vietnamese troops who were said to have dug in on Thai territory.
Thai authorities said today that the bodies of 10 Vietnamese soldiers and some weapons had been recovered following the air strikes.
In a news conference today, Wolfowitz accused Vietnam of seeking a military solution to the Cambodian problem that would allow it to continue its four-year-old military occupation of the country.
"Their professions of interest in a political solution are nothing more than that," he said.
He said the U.S. administration was asking Congress for additional military assistance to Thailand to supplement $66 million in foreign military sales credits and $9 million in grant assistance. He said the current fighting underscored the need for such additional aid to what he called a "frontline state."
However, Wolfowitz ruled out U.S. military assistance to the Cambodian resistance groups battling the Vietnamese occupation. He said such aid would not contribute to a political solution. The resistance groups receive weapons largely from China and at least one noncommunist group has received small arms from Singapore.
Yesterday Wolfowitz visited the Khao-i-Dang refugee camp near the border and concentrations of Cambodian civilians who have gathered along an antitank ditch on Thai territory to escape the Vietnamese offensive. But a scheduled visit to the Nong Samet settlement straddling the border was canceled because Thai authorities fear it might come under attack.
"We saw a very deliberate effort by the Vietnamese to force civilians into Thailand," Wolfowitz said. He added that once the refugees were huddled along the antitank ditch, the Vietnamese had shelled them there.
"I think there was a very deliberate policy of attacking civilians," he said.
The refugee settlements that have been attacked contained thousands of civilians but are run and protected by resistance fighters.
Wolfowitz charged that "the Soviets bear a great deal of responsibility here."