H IS Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk Varman has revealed he is
to hold separate talks with Khmer Rouge President Khieu Samphan and Co-premiers
Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Samdech Hun Sen in the hopes of brokering a peace
But King Sihanouk, who is due to arrive in Phnom Penh today (April
8), said he is not optimistic about the outcome.
Speaking from Beijing in
a wide-ranging and exclusive interview with thePost, the King said the
co-premiers both appeared reluctant to talk peace with the KR.
Majesty said he had already accepted a request from Samphan for an audience. The
nominal KR leader has not been in Phnom Penh since last year when the guerrilla
faction withdrew from the UN-supervized peace process.
While backing the
Royal Government's offensive which took the Khmer Rouge headquarters at Pailin,
the King sounded a stark warning that it could lead to the government's
The revered 71-year-old monarch said he was recovering from the
bone marrow cancer which struck him down last year, causing him to seek
treatment in Beijing. But he revealed there is a new threat to his
Post: How is Your Majesty's health now? There have been
encouraging reports that the hospital treatment in Beijing was a
King: Thanks to the extremely competent and devoted
care of my eminent Chinese doctors, there now remains a mere 0.5 percent of
cancerous tumors and nodules from the spinal bone marrow, whereas only a few
months ago, it was six percent. However, my strength has been much undermined,
and my resistance to infection is poor.
Also, I am not strong enough to
cope with too arduous a program of duties. I have another medical problem which
is, in fact, more serious than my cancer; namely, arteriosclorosis which could
one day cause a major stroke.
Post: What date is Your Majesty planning
King: All being well, I will arrive in Phnom Penh
on April 8, 1994, but immediately on alighting from the plane, it will be
necessary for me to go directly to the Royal Palace by car since it is essential
that I should not be over-fatigued. I have requested that the Royal Government
of Cambodia should not organize an official welcoming ceremony.
How long is Your Majesty planning to stay in Cambodia and what events are
King: My Chinese doctors have asked me to return to
the hospital in Beijing at the end of one month in Phnom Penh since the
extremely busy schedule here in my country could complicate the remaining cancer
However, I intend to remain for two months as my fellow
countrymen would be disappointed if I stayed for too short a time.
in Cambodia, it will be necessary for me to meet with important foreign
dignitaries, receive credentials from ambassadors, have working meetings with
Cambodian officials, and preside at religious and traditional ceremonies.
In addition, I will give public audiences as well as continuing my
humanitarian work, pursuing my "Water Policy," and putting into effect several
projects in the provinces.
Post: On a personal level, what things are
Your Majesty looking forward to most in Cambodia on your
King: Cambodia, at present, is faced with many
serious problems. These I have already discussed in my "Etudes Cambodgiennes" of
March/April 1994. You may obtain a copy of these from my son-in-law, Keo Puth
I intend, on my return to Phnom Penh, to concentrate on two of
these problems. Firstly, I will try to find a way of improving relations between
the people of Cambodia and the Royal Cambodian Government and National Assembly.
Secondly, I will address the Khmer Rouge problem.
While in Phnom Penh, I
will grant an audience to Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh along with
Samdech Hun Sen and another to Khieu Samphan, president of the Party of
I will see what I can do, step by step, to steer
Cambodia towards peace which my country and its unfortunate people have not
known in the period since the coup d'état instigated by Lon Nol on March 18,
1970, until now in 1994. Twenty four years of war, killing and misery: it is too
much to bear.
Post: What is Your Majesty's view on the current
political situation after the capture of Pailin? Does Your Majesty support the
military push made by the Royal Government?
offensive mounted by the Royal Government and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
against the defacto partitioning of Cambodia and to prevent further destruction
of the country's natural resources by the Khmer Rouge for their own profit and
for the gain of foreign interests, is legitimate, unavoidable, and most
However, one must be wary of a disastrous outcome to this
offensive as happened in the case of the full-scale onslaught by the RCAF
against the Khmer Rouge at Anlong Veng.
This serious situation at Pailin
is like a double-edged sword: if, finally, the Royal Government and the RCAF
take permanent control of Pailin with its wealth of minerals and timber, it
would be a benefit of historic proportions for Cambodia.
But if sooner
or later the outcome should be the same as at Anlong Veng, the consequences for
the credibility of the Royal Government and the morale of the RCAF would be
extremely grave and hypothetically could threaten the very future of our new
regime, born in September 1993.
Post: What moves should the Royal
Government make now to resolve the Khmer Rouge problem: Does Your Majesty sense
that the faction may be keener now to talk after the loss of
King: Mr Khieu Samphan, the president of the PDK, has
asked for an audience and I will grant him one in around two weeks from now.
The question of talks between the leaders of the Royal Government and
the president of the PDK, is one which is difficult for me to address.
Since firstly, if the Royal Government and ARK continue to gain ground
at Pailin, Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh and Samdech Hun Sen will have no
reason for accepting "round table" talks with Mr Khieu Samphan; and secondly, if
the Khmer Rouge gain a victory at Pailin in the form of an all-out counter
attack as at Anlong Veng, it will be difficult for me to invite the leaders of
the Royal Government to a round-table meeting with Mr Khieu Samphan without
causing them extreme loss of face.
Samdech Hun Sen is not in favor of the
idea of talks with Mr Khieu Samphan. Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh is not
disposed to negotiate peace with Mr Khieu Samphan. I wish for peace for my
people, but I can take no measures to facilitate that peace while a great
political chasm exists between the leaders of the Royal Government and those of
Post: What are Your Majesty's feelings about the repatriation
of refugees from the Pailin region by the Thai border authorities? These people
were apparently trucked to other Khmer Rouge-held zones and released with little
or no consultation with the Royal Government.
King: I deplore
the fact that each and every refugee did not have the right to choose freely the
zone [either PDK or Royal Government] into which he or she was repatriated. It
was necessary to appeal to the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red
Cross to assure this freedom of choice. Those refugees who did not wish to come
back and resettle in the Khmer Rouge zone and who, prior to their forced
repatriation, had expressed their rejection of the Khmer Rouge, faced the risk
of being savagely punished by the Pol Potist Angkar.
Post: Is Your
Majesty satisfied with the performance of the Royal Government to date,
particularly in the light of criticism that it has been slow in passing
essential new laws?
King: I regret that projects to
develop a legal system remain projects, since our country needs badly to become
truly a state worthy of its name with essential laws well conceived, and a legal
and administrative system of the highest quality.
Post: Your Majesty
has called on the Royal Government not to bring in a law governing the press.
Does Your Majesty feel that call will be heeded?
King: I am
sad to perceive that there exists still in Cambodia a lack of understanding
between certain personages and journalists.
The choice to be considered
by all our national authorities should be a simple one: either we decide to
present Cambodia with freedom of the press or maintain a regime here which
limits that freedom.
Since we have already taken a solemn vow to create
a modern liberal democracy in Cambodia, we should keep our promise and give
total respect to both the Cambodian and foreign press without any