H IS Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk reacted emotionally after his proposal for
"Round Table" peace talks between the Khmer Rouge, the Royal Government
The King had called for the two warring sides to meet in Phnom
Penh between May 2-7 but the nominal Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan sent a
letter on May 1 saying the faction did not consider the capital a safe or
Despite the setback, His Majesty said on May 2 that the
talks should now be held in Pyongyang, Paris or Jakarta to allay the Khmer
Rouge's security concerns.
He also spoke of his anguish at the
continuing bloodshed, with some observers saying the current fighting was the
most intense since 1989 when Vietnamese troops withdrew.
"It's very sad,
very unfortunate to have war, continual war," Sihanouk said in emotional remarks
to a small group of Cambodian journalists. "Why? Our people, all our people,
they are victims of war and our country is a civil-war victim.
unreasonable to destroy our own national wealth. We must put an end to his war
but no one listens to me.
"The roundtable cannot take place for the time
being because there is a very serious difference between Phnom Penh and the
Khmer Rouge, he said.
The charge that the KR delegation would be in
danger in Phnom Penh was denied by the government, which said it could
"guarantee 100 percent" the guerrillas' safety.
But Co-Premiers Prince
Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen and National Assembly Chairman Chea Sim reportedly
insist it should be held in Cambodia, saying the so-called security reason was
an excuse to avoid talks.
"The Khmer Rouge insist on meeting outside
Cambodia because they do not recognize the Royal Government or the new Kingdom
of Cambodia," one Funcinpec MP says of his party's position. The government has
pointed out before that there is no security threat to the Khmer Rouge's Phnom
None of the parties are willing to speculate about the
future of the talks at this stage, except to say that a negotiated settlement
will definitely be found. Discussions between the King and the co-premiers have
so far remained deadlocked.
Members of all political parties feel that
the government cannot appear to agree easily to a change in venue without
further loss of face.
"The government's political bargaining power is
already weak, especially after the defeat at Pailin," says one BLDP MP. "At the
same time, they have to agree to talks, because they cannot defeat the Khmer
The suspension of the talks raised the prospect that
the government will introduce a bill outlawing the KR in the National Assembly
when it reconvenes.
"The law will not be introduced in the near future,
because the effort now will be on negotiations," says a Funcinpec source. "The
government could use it only if everything fails."
Sources familiar with
the bill, drafted by the CPP, say it is a short statement which simply says that
the Khmer Rouge will be outlawed for various crimes such as not participating in
the elections, not recognizing the Royal Government, violating the constitution
and for human rights violations.
But there is also some speculation that
even if the bill is introduced, it may not have a smooth passage through the
assembly. There is considerable opposition from several BLDP and Funcinpec MPs,
who feel that such a law will cut off all possibility of dialogue and force the
government to depend on military victory, which, with the KR on the offensive,
now looks even further away than ever.
"There can be no end to this
problem without talks," says one BLDP legislator. "If we are to support this
bill, we have to be convinced that it will improve the situation."
Sihanouk, showing signs of exasperation with the failure of the two sides to
begin talks , said if he was given more power he would propose a "two-point"
plan for the resumption of talks.
"One, unconditional ceasefire now, and,
two, negotiations, possibly in Paris. Why not?" he said.
The King said
French Minister for higher Education Francois Fillion, on a recent visit, had
assured him that "France is willing to help me 100 percent in my endeavors to
get peace for the Cambodian people."
- Additional reporting by Reuters