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KHMER ROUGE CLAIM CONTROL OF STRATEGIC ROADWAY

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The communist Khmer Rouge claim to have seized a strategic stretch of highway leading to Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, after driving back forces of the Vietnamese-backed government.

"The Vietnamese enemy and puppets have been routed from Route 10," said a report Friday by Khmer Rouge army radio. The text of the report was seen in Bangkok on Saturday. "Their major divisions and regiments have fled to Battambang and to the east. No one is defending Route 10."Route 10 links the gem-rich town of Pailin, near the Thai border, to Battambang, about 40 miles away. The Khmer Rouge on Oct. 22 captured Pailin and said they were pushing northeast to Battambang, a provincial capital.

Claims by the Khmer Rouge are widely regarded as exaggerated, but Thai officials have confirmed the seizure of Pailin.

In the past, the Cambodian government media quickly countered Khmer Rouge claims, but they have not commented on Pailin.