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Let the Khmers Choose

Since 1980 the NGO community in Cambodia has dedicated itself to serving the Cambodian

people. Its primary concern has been and remains to work with the Cambodian people.

The objective is the provision of humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and development

in a way which advances the well-being of people in need. NGOs are seeking to work

as partners and facilitators to enable Cambodians to determine the future direction

of their development.

Rehabilitation and development depends entirely on Cambodia attaining a peaceful

and stable political environment. There must be full support and appropriate development

aid from foreign governments and financial institutions. This, however, is no more

than a dream if one primary requirement is not fulfilled, namely, to respect the

Cambodians' right to self-determination.

Since earlier this year many NGOs have been petitioning foreign nations to swiftly

give an appropriate and immediate form of recognition to the newly elected government,

following the completion of the U.N.-sponsored election. This appeal was based on

the assumption that the elections would be as free and fair as is possible, given

the circumstances.

The elections and their outcome are history now and they have indeed been pronounced

free and fair. However, some UNTAC officials together with some of the foreign governments

who have been supporting the United Nations' efforts to establish peace, are now

inhibiting the formulation of a Cambodian government if it does not meet their expectations.

The apparent determination of some UNTAC officials and some foreign powers to manipulate

the post-election process to serve their own purposes concerns many in the NGO community.

As a result of this interference Cambodia's hope of finally embarking on a path of

rehabilitation and development and of finally haying its sovereignty restored is

in jeopardy.

We sincerely regret that the initiatives of Prince Sihanouk, long recognized as the

one person most capable of facilitating a Cambodian solution, have been purposefully

thwarted by these parties. His efforts to formulate an interim coalition government

were certainly in the spirit of the Paris Peace Accords and should have been supported

by UNTAC. If the current volatile situation is to be stabilized, Prince Sihanouk

must be given freedom by UNTAC and foreign governments to form such a government.

Cambodia needs a Cambodian solution. If Prince Sihanouk can find such a solution

he must be given all the support necessary (financial as well as moral) to achieve

this. This should involve UNTAC acting as a facilitator. Neither UNTAC nor any government

must dictate the outcome of such a process. Without a Cambodian solution, peace and

stability is unattainable and any effort at development or rehabilitation is futile.

The elections have not produced winners or losers, but an opportunity to have a government

of the people's choice. Cambodians have waited too long for such an opportunity,

having suffered long enough under foreign influences. Let not past differences and

the dusty pages of history destroy the hopes and expectations of Cambodians that

have been built up over the past two years.

- Stephen Dowall and Jaffer Nurmohamed, on behalf of concerned, NGO workers

in Cambodia

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