DAYS before the landmark visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin on November 13 and
14, a small but insistent chorus of Cambodians are demanding that Jiang use the occasion
to apologize for Chinese support of the 1975-1979 Pol Pot regime.
The loudest advocates of a Jiang apology are the opposition-aligned Student Movement
for Democracy (SMFD), who are seeking a face-to-face meeting with Jiang to discuss
the need for a Chinese apology and to press Jiang to cease China's opposition to
a UN-sponsored Khmer Rouge tribunal.
"We now know through the recent publication of the memoirs of former Singaporean
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that China supplied the Khmer Rouge with more than a
billion dollars in support during the 1970s and 1980s," SMFD Secretary General
Un Sam An said.
"We can [therefore] blame China for the deaths of more than one million Cambodians
[during the Khmer Rouge regime]."
The SFMD is joined in its advocacy of a Chinese apology for its alleged complicity
in the genocidal policies of Democratic Kampuchea by Dr Lao Mong Hay, Executive Director
of Khmer Institute for Democracy.
"China owes Cambodia an apology," Mong Hay said. "The Chinese [from
1975-1979] followed Mao's doctrine [of violent revolution] and directly assisted
the Khmer Rouge to oppress and commit massacres of my fellow Cambodians."
Mong Hay points to China's role as Democratic Kampuchea's main foreign patron and
the presence of hundreds of Chinese technical advisors throughout the country during
the Pol Pot regime as damning evidence of China's knowledge of and participation
in Cambodian genocide.
Mong Hay singles out documentary evidence of the presence of Chinese engineers at
two of DK's most notorious slave labor projects - the "death airport" of
Kampong Chhnang and the Kamping Pouy dam in Battambang - which killed thousands through
overwork, starvation and summary execution.
"China had a hand in the massacres," Mong Hay said. "The presence
of diplomats and technocrats in Cambodia and their indifference and even exhortations
to Cambodians to 'work harder' makes them culpable in the massacres."
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith dismissed any need for China to apologize for
its support of the Khmer Rouge regime.
"The Khmer Rouge is just like a fruit - to understand it you have to look at
the tree and have to look at the roots," Kanharith said of assigning blame to
China for KR massacres. "To improve relations with countries is better [than
Mong Hay, however, said that China had much to gain by officially apologizing for
its support of Democratic Kampuchea.
"The trend in the world now is apologies from big powers for mistakes of the
past," Mong Hay said. "For an Asian power to emulate Western powers by
recognizing wrongdoing in the past would not only be for the best for China and Cambodia,
but the whole of Asia itself."
Chinese Embassy officials in Phnom Penh did not respond to a Post interview request.