According to King Norodom Sihanouk, Khieu Samphan, nominal leader of the Khmer Rouge
"accepted to give up peacefully" Pailin and the Preah Vihear temples, if
the Khmer Rouge are given advisory positions in the Royal Government. "But what
positions? And what would be the power of the advisors? That is the main point,"
the King told the Phnom Penh Post in an interview on Oct. 3.
Sihanouk said there was already agreement in principle between the government and
the Khmer Rouge on the advisor issue. "But you know, they are terrible guys
so they will ask for positions very influential, to control everything - the police,
the army; to supervise all activities: financial, economic, political, even foreign
affairs," the King said.
The King added that if the demands are too much for the Royal Government, negotiations
would fail. And in the event of failure, there will be a police operation to take
back Pailin and other sanctuaries.
The Preah Vihear temple, Sihanouk said, would be the last act, the last problem to
be resolved. And that would depend on the goodwill of Thailand. Chuckling, he refrained
from commenting about the sticky situation with Thailand, except to say that "if
Thailand decides to abandon the Khmer Rouge, the Khmer Rouge will naturally give
up Preah Vihear."
Khieu Samphan arrived in Phnom Penh last Friday and gave a short speech to news-hungry
journalists. When one of them asked why the DK forces are still fighting the government
troops, he briefly responded 'we are only protecting ourselves'. Then he slipped
into a Peugeot bearing blue-painted SNC licence plates and was driven off.
Samphan came to the capital for the sole purpose of meeting with the newly-crowned
King. On Friday evening at the palace, according to the King, Khieu Samphan formally
recognized Sihanouk as King, the monarchy and the constitution. But he avoided recognizing
the government led by Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen. "It is a stumbling block,"
said the King.
The King added that it was Ranariddh and Hun Sen who set conditions for a roundtable
discussion in mid-November and many of them had been met. "Even if I am neutral
referee, I must say the Royal Government is right to say to the Khmer Rouge 'before
having the roundtable discussions you must recognize the constitution, you must recognize
officially the Royal Government, you must put an end to your propaganda against us
as so-called puppets of Vietnamese and propaganda saying we are still a colony of
Vietnam.' The Khmer Rouge must also fold all their officers and soldiers into the
Royal army and give up being the Khmer Rouge. To become a legal political party the
Khmer Rouge must give up its army and autonomous zones," Sihanouk added.
The meeting was one of a series designed to ensure Cambo-dia's sovereignty and territorial
integrity by bringing the intransigent Khmer Rouge back to the national community.
The Khmer Rouge who opted out of the peace process and boycotted the elections, still
control 20 percent of the country's territory, primarily in western Cambodia where
they reap enormous profits from gem mining and timber.
The Khmer Rouge said they sought no government post but would not alter their demand
for an advisory role and formation of national armed forces that include the NADK.
They hope that the 'shuttle diplomacy' of the Kingwill bridge the gap between the
guerrillas and the government. They said they 'want to have a real cease-fire,' and
for that goal to be achieved they proposed to set up a committee to study the details
and plans for control and verification.
The newly appointed government and the Khmer Rouge have been jockeying back and forth
in a bid to make a breakthrough before the round table meetings, although they agree
on national unity, in principle.
According to a letter from co-premiers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen sent
from New York to Khieu Samphan on Sept. 30, the holding of the dialogues depends
on the Khmer Rouge attitude towards the new government, their willingness to integrate
themselves and open up territory under their control.
"It is not a pre-condition, rather a confidence the legitimate royal government
considers itself obliged to fulfill for the country, the nation and the people who
are the owners of the ballots," they said.
In a statement they issued on Oct. 2, the Khmer Rouge said that to raise such conditions,
whether voluntarily or not, was to oppose national reconciliation, and peace...was
against the Monarchy and the King, and would sap the constitution.
Khmer Rouge have been asked to stop military operations and hand over their controlled
zone to the King. But they are seeking to share a military position in the national
army, fearing a lack of decision-making power if they agree to give in to the government.
"To achieve genuine national reconciliation, there must be balance of forces
and political equilibrium," the statement said.
"If one party has no force at all or not enough force while the other maintains
all categories of its forces...national reconciliation can not be materialized, and
peace, independence and sovereignty can not be restored, and let alone the reconstruction
of the country," they claimed in reference to the former Hun Sen government
whose officials still maintain primary control over the armed forces.
Ek Sereywath, vice-minister of information, commented that the Khmer Rouge strategy
was to play for time while continuing their propaganda campaign in a bid to reorganize
and strengthen their forces. The Khmer Rouge have suffered over 2,000 defections
in the last six weeks.
"What they want is to have a role in the government and to maintain their own
structure of armed forces," he said.
Khieu Samphan did not go further to recognize the government, and perhaps would not
do so, because of the new cabinet composition maintaining his bitter foes-former
Vietnamese installed government-who had threatened the country's stability after
they emerged second in the elections, forcing a coalition with the winning FUNCINPEC
The promulgation of the constitution three weeks ago has allowed the government to
advance its right in resolving any issue within the framework of law.
On the other hand, the Supreme National Council in which the Khmer Rouge used to
be reckoned with as a legitimate party under the terms of the UN Peace Accords has
now been dissolved.
"If they [KR] are just a political party and do not have not military and control
zones, they could curse anything as a political party. Those who have the right to
criticize us are the other 16 parties who have taken part in the elections. Right
now the KR is not a legal political party, but an armed guerrilla faction which is
illegal," Hun Sen, second co-premier of the Royal Government, has said.
"However strongly they hate us [Cambodian People's Party], we have been elected
by the people. We have legality and privilege," he added, warning the Khmer
Rouge, "Cambodia is an indivisible state and we give no ability to any political
or military faction to hold any part of the country."
Hun Sen also said he expected only a one percent chance of success for the roundtable
Khieu Samphan, calling his meeting with King Sihanouk successful, headed off last
Saturday empty-handed. King Sihanouk departed on Monday to receive medical treatment
in Beijing. Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen will resume their task of forming the new
cabinet when they return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Ministry
insiders say there may be some surprises when the new cabinet is announced. Both
Sin Song and Prince Chakrapong had reportedly left for Beijing with the King.
One government source, who refused to be identified, said that Sin Song, one of the
organizers of the post-election secessionist movement, would be given back his post
as Minister of Interior.