The Khmer Rouge (KR), locked in a bitter war with the U.N., no longer of words, vowed
that violence and instability will worsen in Cambodia in coming weeks and promised
to prevent the holding of elections scheduled for late May.
In an exclusive interview with the Review, Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan on
April 3 said the elections were a plot by western powers to destroy them and would
never bring peace , and that they should be abandoned for a national reconciliation
government led and formed by Cambodia's now powerless but titular head of state Prince
"We cannot participate in the electoral campaign or the `Untaciste' elections,''
Khieu Samphan said in a two hour interview at the Khmer Rouge compound in Phnom Penh,"
The Cambodian people are in a very angry mood. If the Western powers do not change
their position, there is no other choice for the Cambodian people but to show their
anger at the Western powers. There will certainly be more incidents such as the launching
of hand grenades against the Vietnamese in Phnom Penh. We can foresee that the situation
will get more unstable, more insecure, more confusing. The popular movement against
the Vietnamese will increase. There will be more attacks."
Samphan said that "UNTAC is in a very advanced stage, they cannot retreat (from
elections). We have a saying in Cambodian: 'when the crocodile has advanced so far
already, it is not possible to get him to go away before he snaps'. So they will
certainly go ahead blindly. But they are certainly going to meet complete failure....What
are we going to do( in the period of the run up to elections)? This is a matter that
lies squarely with UNTAC and the western powers. Are they going to continue their
policy to eliminate the Democratic Kampuchea party? If there are four Cambodian parties
(in a future government) the DK party will be among them, and there will be peace
The warning to abandon the polls or face renewed warfare comes as Cambodia's political
stability plunged on the eve of the April 7 formal beginning of the election campaign.
Recent days have seen a collapse of the Riel currency, Khmer Rouge-inspired ethnic
violence that has sparked an exodus of thousands of Vietnamese from Cambodia, a series
of coordinated bombings in Phnom Penh, and military attacks on U.N. forces in the
provinces that have, for the first time, targeted and killed a number of U.N. soldiers.
UNTAC investigators blame Khmer Rouge military attacks for much of the violence,
but popular discontent over the collapse of the economy in late March and widespread
anti-Vietnamese sentiments have allowed the Khmer Rouge to tap a fertile well of
popular skepticism that elections can bring stability to Cambodia.
Widespread corruption by officials of the Vietnamese-installed regime in Phnom Penh,
a bloody coordinated campaign of political violence and intimidation known to be
orchestrated by the hard-line communists who control it's Peoples Party, and disillusionment
over UNTAC's weakness in providing economic and political security, has left the
country splintered and prone to anarchy, analysts say.
Addressing the leaders of the four factions, including Khieu Samphan, on April 4
UNTAC chief Yasushi Akashi reiterated UNTAC's intention to go through with elections
despite the violence. He acknowledged that conditions to hold election were "not
perfect. They never have been and they never will be. UNTAC believes that the vast
majority of the Cambodian people want an election. UNTAC believes that only we can
give them an election that the rest of the world will accept as reasonably free and
fair. UNTAC believes that those who seek to disrupt such an election are the enemies
of the people of Cambodia, and that we must resist their attempts. UNTAC believes
that if elections do not take place in May of 1993, they may never take place.....We
will carry on despite the risks and the violence"
Samphan said that "UNTAC has come, in collusion with the Yuon (Vietnamese) and
the puppet regime, to keep in place the puppet regime. UNTAC fears that the puppet
regime will crumble before the elections. Consequently UNTAC has tried hard to rescue
the puppet regime." He said elections would be " tantamount to handing
Cambodia to Vietnam on a silver platter" and that the presence of hundreds of
thousands of ethnic Vietnamese make elections impossible.
Despite Akashi's renewed commitment to go forward with elections in the atmosphere
of violence, diplomats and others here are becoming increasingly pessimistic that,
even if elections are held, they can result in forming the basis for a stable government.
The opposing parties may not accept the results in the expected climate of fear.
They say that an increasingly possible scenario is that if th eUNTAC elections are
held in and a period of instabili ty follows, Prince Sihanouk will attempt to form
a government of national reconciliation.
The Khmer Rouge have thrown their full support behind the idea of Sihanouk intervening
and forming such a government, in which they expect to be invited to play a role.
"We support fully the efforts of His Royal Highness who has put forward a plan
which is a solution to the current crisis, yet UNTAC and western powers oppose it,
"Samphan said," When I refer to western powers, I mean to include Japan."
He called for "support for Sihanouk in his second national crusade to restore
In a stat ement released on Mar. 17, Sihanouk said: "One day I may be obliged
to launch my `second crusade' but it will then be outside the Paris agreement."
"If things get so bad towards the end of 1993, I may have to launch my second
crusade to refloat the shipwrecked Cambodian ship... to remake with a popular mandate
a Cambodia that is totally independent, authentically neutral and reunited, that
is to say without any partition and with territorial and maritime frontiers that
were in existence before 1969."
Sihanouk's rejection of a 'partitioned' Cambodia and promise to address the key concerns
of the Khmer Rouge over territorial disputes with Vietnam are an attempt by Sihanouk
to bring in the Khmer Rouge to form a government of national reconciliation that
could never be achieved with the current elections, because the Khmer Rouge lack
of participation in the election process offers them no position in a government
formed on the basis of the U.N. organized elections.
"If there is national reconciliation through the efforts of HRH Prince Sihanouk,
I would like to tell you we don't ask for important portfolios, even a folding chair
to sit on would be acceptable. I want to make it clear that the DK does not want
to come back to power. We want national reconciliation and territorial integrity,"
The next weeks are likely to see a battle for the allegiance of the major opposition
parties who remain in the election. According to senior officials in both major opposition
parties-Son Sann's Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party and Prince Norodom Ranariddh's
FUNCINPEC-their ranks are split on the question of whether to participate in the
electoral campaign or not. Both parties, who were in a loose alliance with the Khmer
Rouge and Sihanouk during the 13-year war against the Vietnamese and the Phnom Penh
government, have suffered directed attacks on their officials conducted by the State
of Cambodia security apparatus that has left more than a hundred of their officials
dead or wounded, according to U.N. investigators.
"This election will be a bloody one. Some of our people want to go back to the
jungle to fight, to join hands with the Khmer Rouge because there is no neutral political
environment, no free and fair elections," BLDP secretary general Ieng Mouly
said. The Post has learned that BLDP president Son Sann has expressed his desire
to abandon the elections, saying that his party will be unable to campaign under
such conditions. But the BLDP and FUNCINPEC have come under strong pressure from
their foreign backers, who continue to supply covert funding to their campaign chests,
that if they withdraw their funding will cease. According to sources, Khieu Samphan
met with Son Sann in Bangkok in late March and offered his party US $6 million if
they would withdraw from the campaign. While the 80-year-old ex-prime minister rejected
the offer of cash, the sources say that he may yet withdraw his support for the election.
Samphan said it would be "treason" for other parties to participate in
the elections. "I am convinced that those political parties will not rubberstamp
the election that will kill Cambodia. That is my firm conviction.
A key to whether elections will be held is the decision of FUNCINPEC, the major opposition
party. Many analysts believe that if elections were free from intimidation, FUNCINPEC
would oust Hun Sen's State of Cambodia from po wer. While FUNCINPEC also has come
under pressure from both the Khmer Rouge to abandon the process and the U.N. and
major western and Asian powers to stay the course, Prince Ranariddh has stated that
his party will participate in the elections despite the violence. But, the Post has
learned, FUNCINPEC's number two official, Sam Rainsy, favors withdrawing from the
elections, and a major rift in top circles of the party continues over the issue.
A FUNCINPEC withdrawal would probably spell the death of the U.N. election process,
Despite the increasingly deteriorating environment, U.N. analysts say that it is
still difficult to predict who might win the election. U.N. officials point to Burma's
1988 election, where the opposition won despite the campaign of intimidation by the
ruling party. In the end, it is believed, that the U.N. will go through with elections
after having spent more than 2 billion dollars and with the credibility of the world
body's ability to conduct such operations elsewhere in the future at stake.
The results of the election may still yet be the determining factor of what role
the Khmer Rouge will play in a future Cambodia. " How much FUNCINPEC or SOC
get's in the election will determine whether the KR are dealt with politically or
militarily in the future," said a senior U.N. official. FUNCINPEC has promised
to turn major power to Sihanouk and include the Khmer Rouge in the event of them
leading a future government. " If SOC wins, there will be war. That is clear,"
said the official.
The Khmer Rouge remain convinced that going through with elections " Is an attempt
by the western powers to rubber stamp the Vietnamese occupation and install their
puppets with the legitimacy of U.N. elections. As the events in the recent past have
clearly shown, the Cambodian people will never accept that and during the next months
it will be shown clearly that such elections can not be held," Samphan said.
If they are it seems the prospect of peace to follow is dim.