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KR defended

To the editor:

M ay I offer my foreign-voiced support to those Khmers who look at the other side of the Khmer Rouge story, and continue to advocate the KR's presence in the country.

This is not to say we support the KR - their tactics are deplorable. But the importance of their continuing to control large areas of forest and other rural lands is exemplified in your Nov 18 issue.

The article describes an ill-advised deal being signed with Malaysian logging interests. The recent history of South East Asia is replete with environmental destruction, brought about by short-sighted timber and mineral interests, a trade that is promulgated through logging concessions granted to southeast Asian, Chinese and Taiwanese by generally handsomely rewarded political authorities.

I believe these same Chinese and Malaysian conglomerates are merely waiting for the RCAF, with Western-financed military support, to eliminate the effectiveness of the Khmer Rouge. They will then be the first in, after all the dirty work is done for them, to market Cambodia's timber and mineral resources. They have no concern for the nation, nor for the environment.

Logging rarely makes the average citizen better off, though it always greatly enriches a few at the top. The KR know this very well and should use deals such as the Malaysian Sambling one as part of their propaganda efforts with the Khmer population.

And the international community should perhaps look again at the potential benefit of a continued KR presence in Cambodia's areas of prime ecological concern. By helping the KR maintain its presence - however crude - Cambodia is being provided a balance to the temptations of ill-considered and unsound foreign exploitation.

The KR, after all, have all along voiced the strongest argument of a Cambodia to be developed by and for all of her own people - and not by the whims of outsiders who come bearing gifts with long strings attached.

- David Ananda, Singapore

Editor replies:

Mr Ananda's remarks are so ludricious that he must either be a puppet of the one-headed, genocidal Khmer Rogue gang of bandits or just plain ignorant, or, most probably, both. The Khmer and international communities have long since taken a close look at the benefit of a Khmer Rouge "presence in Cambodia'a areas of prime ecological concern" and the overwelming conclusion is that the KR have been an absolute disaster for the nation's forests, not to mention other resources. During the UNTAC presence the UN made videos from helicopters of forest areas ravaged by the KR and their Thai logging cohorts. Hundreds if not thousands of hectares of forests along the Thai border had been completely destroyed. As well, it has been known for many years that KR gem mining is being conducted without the slightest regard for any environmental concerns. The devastation from such mining has long since passed the crisis point. Silt runoff from mountain areas under KR control is already contributing to the strangulation of the Tonle Sap and the ruination of the nation's enormous fish stocks there. Even worse, the profits from this wanton plunder of Cambodia'a natural resources have been used to purchase weapons and ammunition which to this day are being used to kill innocent Khmers, burn down villages, blow up bridges and, generally, hamper the Kingdom's ability to deal substantively with any number of development issues of which the sustainable management of natural resources is just one. Putting aside the valid question of logging contracts with Southeast Asian firms, Mr. Ananda would do well to look beyond the regular flood of mindless KR rhetoric and recognize that the Khmer Rouge have done more to destroy the Khmer nation (and its resources) than any Cambodian political group in recorded history.

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