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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jiang pressed for Chinese apology

Jiang pressed for Chinese apology

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

demanding apologies]."

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.

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