(AP)-With elaborate fanfare U.N. peacekeepers celebrated the first anniversary on
Oct. 23 of a peace accord they have so far failed to fully implement.
A military parade in front of the Royal Palace, including flags from some of the
more than 40 nations contributing to the peacekeeping operation, marked last year's
signing of peace accords by Cambodia's four factions.
But there was little reason to celebrate. For most of the seven months that the U.N.
Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) has been here, the Khmer Rouge have refused
to cooperate with the peace plan.
U.N. peacekeepers and negotiators from the international community have tried for
months to prod the guerrillas into honoring the peace accord. But the Khmer Rouge
refuse to be pressured and U.N. officials are beginning to doubt whether they'll
ever come around.
"People are becoming disheartened," said a U.N. official who demanded anonymity.
"People have been optimistic all along and just right now there's a feeling
that we're at the end of the rope."
Just two weeks ago, U.N. officials said, Khmer Rouge guerrillas committed the biggest
cease-fire violation in months, blowing up two bridges and attacking several villages
in Kompong Thom province, killing and wounding dozens. The Khmer Rouge denied the
The Khmer Rouge insist they will not lay down their arms and cooperate with the peace
process unless they are given more power over the Phnom Penh regime to help create
a neutral political environment in which to hold the elections.
But though such an environment is mandated by the peace accord, some observers believe
it may be impossible to create one, particularly in a country emerging from more
than two decades of war.
"We are not going to have a perfect, neutral election," said a Western
diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It doesn't occur in Chicago,
or Thailand or Burma. . .it has never existed anywhere."
The U.N. Security Council says peacekeepers must stick to the original May deadline
for elections, regardless of political instability. Many think the world body does
not want to extend the U.S. $2 billion operation because of financial reasons.
If the Khmer Rouge, who control about 15 percent of Cambodia, boycott the elections
and refuse to recognize its results, the poll would fall short of its goal, said
the U.N. official in charge of elections, Reginald Austin.
"The Paris agreement contemplated an election that is ultimately conciliatory
and that is going to lead to peace," he said. "An inclusive election is
the fundamental objective."
But U.N. officials question whether that objective will be met.
"I thought [the Khmer Rouge] would take advantage of the Paris agreement to
become part of the legal constitutional processes," said UNTAC chief Yasushi
Akashi. "But, if they opt out, they will become a bunch of illegal revolutionaries."
The new government might then have to launch another civil war to bring the Khmer
Rouge territory under its control, said State of Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Some U.N. officials and other factions question whether the Khmer Rouge should have
been included in the peace process.
"I think it was the wrong thing because, without them, everybody would have
found an agreement," said the U.N. official who demanded anonymity. "We
would have moved forward."