As Cambodia marks the one year anniversary of the Paris Accords, the political temperature
is starting to sizzle.
Two days after the U.N. Security Council passed its latest resolution setting
a new deadline for the Khmer Rouge to join the peace process, two strategic bridges
in Kompong Thom were blown up and several villages shelled, killing seven civilians.
"Whoever has done this act of ruthless violence has done great damage to the
peace process," said UNTAC Chief Yasushi Akashi at the Oct. 20 meeting of the
Supreme National Council.
Charges and counter-charges have been vollied as to who was responsible for blowing
up the bridges, one on Route 21 and the other on Route 6, which had just been repaired
by the UNTAC Chinese engineering battalion.
UNTAC and the State of Cambodia [SOC] say the Khmer Rouge was responsible.
"I consider this the worst violation of Phase II of the peace agreement,"
said Cambodian People's Armed Forces [CPAF] General Neang Phath on Oct. 17. "My
personal view is that this is the beginning of the Khmer Rouge dry season strategy."
The Khmer Rouge deny the charges. "Since the beginning of October, [SOC] has
launched operations on routes 6 and 7, sending 500 fresh Vietnamese troops to Kompong
Thomto launch operations on Rt. 21," said Khmer Rouge spokesman Mak Ben on Oct.
"As long as they continue these attacks, there will be no peace and security
While the Khmer Rouge have not applied for provisional status as a political party
with UNTAC, to date ten other groups have. Provisional status enables parties to
post their representatives at voter registration sites to monitor and challenge what
they consider fraudulent registrations.
This status does not enable a party to run for election; for this, groups must submit
the names of 5,000 people who are registered voters and also members of that party.
So far approximately 60,000 people have registered to vote at 39 different sites
in Phnom Penh, where registration started Oct. 5.
One of the latest parties to open offices in Phnom Penh, the Neutral Democratic Party
of Cambodia (NDPC), hails from expat Khmer communities in California. Members say
they have been operating "underground" in Cambodia since 1985, and distributed
500 copies of their platform here in early 1991.
"The people in this country depend on the people outside to help build democracy,"
said NDPC member Party Secretary Chhath Channath. "They can't do it here, so
they ask the people from the outside."
Though small, the group is optimistic that if it can get its message out-their platform
is modeled after the U.S. constitution-they'll have a chance of winning some seats
in the constituent assembly.
"People want to see new faces, not old factions," said NDPC Rodacker Muong,
who runs a videotape business in San Jose, California. "They have enough experience
with old factions."
The group uses the four-faced Bayon statue to symbolize the cornerstones of their
platform: liberty, equality, sovereignty, and justice.
The SOC's Peoples Party recently came out with a new logo that is making the tee-shirt
department at UNTAC Information sweat.
It's an apsara goddess sprinkling flowers, a symbol that has been incorporated into
"Register to Vote" tee-shirts on order by UNTAC.
With the Electoral Law prohibiting the use of Angkor Wat or Prince Sihanouk's portrait
as political party symbols, there's a lot of competition over emblems.
Already UNTAC has had problems with a tee-shirt it printed with a dove on it because
one of the parties has taken the dove as their symbol. UNTAC's dove tee-shirts are
still available, but buyers have to pledge not to wear them here.
SOC Deputy Minister Cham Prasidh said Cambodian People's Party chose the apsara because
it "represents what our government has done for the people the last 13 years-extending
compassion, bringing peace to the whole country, making agriculture strong."
Intertwined blue and red ribbons on the logo symbolize the "close cooperation"
between the people and the administration, Prasidh added.
Parties opening branch offices in the provinces are not always greeted with the welcome
wagon. On the morning of Oct. 12 armed CPAF army officers, including two high ranking
generals, threatened locals gathered in FUNCINPEC's newly opened office in Battam-bang.
"While pointing weapons they shouted at the people to ignore FUNCINPEC's material,
telling them 'these people are traitors,'" UNTAC Acting Spokesman Eric Berman
said. Several UNTAC personnel happened to be in the office at the time, including
a member of the civilian police, who followed the military vehicles to a restaurant
"There was some resistance on the part of the [SOC] officers," Berman said,
"and armed troops were seen in the area pointing weapons at the restaurant."
UNTAC military and civilian officials have sought the direct intervention of CPAF
General Pich Sang, who is conducting an investigation into the matter.
"This is not the only example of political intimidation," Berman said,"but
it's the most serious incident that I know of. "
Some insiders at UNTAC say UNTAC should start "drawing the line" to prevent
such incidents from escalating.
"We need to focus on 'disappearances' and so-called accidents," said one
UNTAC administrator, who said that 22 people associated with the Khmer People's National
Liberation Front have had "lethal accidents" since the group set up shop
in SOC-held territory last fall.