The United Nations wants to help the 300,000 Cambodian refugees in Thailand return home, but their guerrilla overlords seem determined to keep using them as pawns in the 12-year-old war.

The Khmer Rouge guerrillas are building up their "liberated zones" in western areas bordering Thailand, opposite the refugee camps.Instead of allowing the refugees to return to their home villages, the communist guerrillas may move them into the zones, for use in military and diplomatic maneuvering or for contesting elections if peace comes.

"The resistance wants to populate the liberated areas with the refugees, not only to control the areas but also to keep their hold on these people," said Jean-Jacques Fresard, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Thailand.

"This seems to lead to a Lebanonization of Cambodia," he said. "You have a government that controls part of the country and you have three factions that each control a small part. This leads to partition rather than a settlement of the Cambodian conflict."

The Khmer Rouge, Prince Norodom Sihanouk's forces and guerrillas led by Son Sann make up a coalition fighting the government Vietnam installed after it invaded Cambodia in December 1978 and overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime.

Most refugees in the U.N. camps arrived in 1979-80, not to join the guerrillas, but fleeing war and hunger.