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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gloomy PM warns of more fighting

Gloomy PM warns of more fighting

A FRESH upsurge in fighting is the likely result of the Pyongyang peace talks,

said Co-Premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh, after the Royal Government and the

Khmer Rouge failed to agree on a ceasefire.

"I think the Royal Government

does not have any choice but to fight the Khmer Rouge, with or without the help

and assistance from friendly countries," said Prince Ranariddh on May 31,

striking a gloomy chord after returning from the talks at the King's residence

in North Korea,

The Royal Government agreed to a ceasefire call from His

Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk prior to the start of the talks on May 27. The

government said the guns should fall silent on 15 June. But the communique

signed by the two sides after the talks agreed only on setting up a "round-table

commission" to meet at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh on June 15.

"On

the 15 June we are going to talk [but] I'm not hopeful for my country, for the

success," said Prince Ranariddh.

"The Khmer Rouge Khieu Samphan flatly

rejected the [ceasefire] proposal put forward by His Majesty the King and

supported, endorsed by the Royal Government.

"I think now it becomes a

sacred duty for the Royal Government to defend the security of the

people."

Interior Minister You Hockry told the Post the commission would

consist of four delegates from the Khmer Rouge, two from the National Assembly

and two from the government. He also said he was not optimistic about the

commission producing any real progress towards peace.

The Minister said

the commission would hold several meetings.

In Pyongyang the Khmer Rouge

countered the ceasefire call by proposing it should be monitored by observers

from five foreign countries chosen from a list of 10. This condition was

regarded as unrealistic by government officials and foreign observers

alike.

"The proposal of the 10 countries and pick five, if the Khmer

Rouge don't respect their signature at the 1991 Paris Agreement, how can they

respect those 10 countries, This is a show-piece proposal," Information Ministry

spokesman Sieng La Presse told the Post.

"And look at those countries,

they don't have money to send their troops out, who is going to pay for them?"

added La Presse referring to the Khmer Rouge list which included countries such

as Papua New Guinea, Fiji and others with little or no peacekeeping experience

and shallow public purses.

Government officials were equally dismissive

of a Khmer Rouge proposal at the talks for setting up a "minimum political

platform."

In a statement made on May 27, Khmer Rouge President Khieu

Samphan referred to it as "the basis for the formation of the national

government and the unified national army."

But Prince Ranariddh rejected

it as an attack on the government.

"The Khmer Rouge said no ceasefire

until we accept their so-called 'minimal political program' [which] is nothing

else but aimed at destroying the legal and legitimate institutions of Cambodia,"

he told reporters after returning to Phnom Penh.

He added: "I have to say

I feel very sad for my country that we have lost the opportunity of resolving

the problem through peaceful means."

A post-talks statement signed by the

Phnom Penh government representatives of National Assembly President Chea Sim,

and Co-Premiers Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen also strongly criticized the KR

proposals.

According to La Presse the statement said: "...These

roundtable talks....it is an undeniable fact that the Khmer Rouge revealed their

intention not to seek a solution by political means but [is] their tactic of

fight-talk, fight-talk....."

Despite Prince Ranariddh's rhetoric of

increased fighting there have been conflicting signals from the government over

the last few weeks on how to deal with the KR.

Some government leaders

have said that military means may not be the best way to combat the Khmer Rouge

guerrillas, a stance which many diplomats and foreign observers in Phnom Penh

have long supported.

"It's a widely held belief that the government

cannot beat the Khmer Rouge militarily for the simple reason that they cannot

defeat to the last man every member of the Khmer Rouge," said one diplomat,

echoing the classical views of the difficulty in defeating a guerrilla

army.

Even Prince Ranarridh, who talked of war in the wake of the talks,

was quoted as saying in a speech last month: "The real issue to tackle the Khmer

Rouge problem is not weapons, I was talking about development."

After

Pyongyang the Prince said "the ball is not anymore in our side," implying that

the next move was up to the Khmer Rouge.

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