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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - What Role for KR in a New Government?

What Role for KR in a New Government?

One of Prince Sihanouk's primary objectives after he's elected President of Cambodia

will be to attempt to bring the Khmer Rouge into a national reconciliation government.

Given that they have withdrawn from the electoral process, a constituent assembly

election-which would form a government based on the results of the polls-would exclude

the Khmer Rouge from sharing power and guarantee the partitioning of Cambodia and

at least some level of continued warfare, ending the hope of achieving one of the

primary objectives of the years of international brokering that resulted in the Paris

Agreements-national reconciliation. Sihanouk hopes that with his new powers he could

achieve what UNTAC couldn't-a rapprochement with the Khmer Rouge by offering them

a role in his government.

In a letter to Khieu Samphan on Jan, 24 Sihanouk asked to "please urgently give

me in writing the confirmation of your condemnation of the next (presidential) elections....Moreover

in rejecting the next UNTAC elections in May 1993, the PDK, will, ipso facto, make

Cambodia, our beloved country, a country divided with a de facto partition: there

will be one part 'PDK Cambodia' (about 20% of our country) and a 'non-Khmer Rouge

Cambodia.' I would be very grateful, your excellency, (if you could) please let me

know, in writing, if the PDK would accept the partitioning, even de facto, of our

unfortunate fatherland.''

In the first Khmer Rouge response to the idea of presidential elections on Jan. 23

they said on the one hand that they would "categorically oppose the presidential

election in a situation in which UNTAC does not control the yuon aggressor, does

not give a role to the SNC, and does not control the five ministries.'' These conditions

continue to exist, according to the Khmer Rouge, and are the basis of why they are

refusing to cooperate with UNTAC. But in the same message the Khmer Rouge said, if

the conditions were correct, they "would like to express immense joy and offer

the presidential candidacy to Prince Norodom Sihanouk and solemnly declare to the

nation and international community that they would 100% elect Prince Norodom Sihanouk

as Cambodia's president.''

Since the mid-1980's, Khmer Rouge internal policy has been clear in their desire

to be part of a process of establishing a national reconciliation government, and

there is reason to believe that they would now view positively a strong Sihanouk-led

administration as one of their only hopes to maintain a voice in the new government.

In an internal speech given by Pol Pot to ranking cadre in 1988, where he laid out

the long term strategy of the Khmer Rouge, he said: "one thing that will be

very obvious is the neccesity that there be a united government and political administration

composed of the parties, of the various forces joined together. However the rest

of the forces who will be joining together want to exterminate us. It will only be

impossible for them to exterminate us if we are in possession of popular strength.''

He goes on to outline the need for participating in the parliament in order to have

"representatives in the government and major ministries....the result of both

being in possession of popular strength and having persons belonging to us in the

organs of the state is that we will have the maximum capacity to protect the more

than one hundred thousand persons in our ranks and also the maximum capacity to protect

our peoples interest.'' He concludes by saying that without representation "our

ranks would definitely be compelled to collapse and disintegrate and be completely

dispersed...''

What is clear from the Khmer Rouge internal documents is that they were prepared

to participate in a national reconciliation government. At some point after the arrival

of UNTAC they made a substantial policy shift, probably after it became clear that

UNTAC was not going to contribute significantly to the dismantling of the administration

of their "enemies"-the State of Cambodia. It was at this point, probably

in May 1992, that the Khmer Rouge pulled back from cooperation with UNTAC. But some

analysts argue that their larger goal of having a voice in a future government remains

intact, and that Sihanouk is the only one capable of negotiating their return to

the process.

The Khmer Rouge remain convinced that UNTAC, along with western nations and the Vietnamese,

are engaged in a conspiracy to destroy them. In another internal Khmer Rouge document

of a speech by Pol Pot, dated February 1992, he says:"while the DK has indeed

become strong, without others to be with it, the DK cannot be strong on it's own...they

will attack the DK and drag the other forces into joining with Phnom Penh. It would

become an alliance between the West, the Yuon (Vietnamese), the contemptable puppets

(the SOC), and two of the three parties (FUNCINPEC and the KPNLF). If this were to

be the situation, then the Chinese, the Thais, and ASEAN would all accept it whether

they liked it or not. We need friends among the three parties until the day we die,

and we also need friends in the triangle ( eds. note: This may refer to China, Thailand,

and ASEAN) until the day we die.''

Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge clearly believe that they cannot survive alone, and it

is in their interest to build and protect their alliances, in order to slowly rebuild

their domestic credibility after their murderous years in power. It is clear that

the peace agreement, the end of the cold war, and the peace process has gone a long

way to dismantling their previous alliances.

It can be argued that Khmer Rouge objectives have remained constant-to achieve a

voice in the major ministries and state organs in a new government-through elections

or other means.

Sihanouk's statement on Jan. 23 confirmed that he is willing to offer concessions

of power to the Khmer Rouge outside the framework of elections: "With the Khmer

Rouge, I am going to undertake patient and repeated negotiations in order to lead

them in one way or another to not continue to partition effectively Cambodia and

to reintigrate into the national community....a national government of Cambodia with

PDK participation is envisageable,'' but, he cautioned, "nothing should be antiipated.''

If the Khmer Rouge were to be included in a new government, it is likely that Khmer

Rouge President Khieu Samphan would be offered a senior post, perhaps as a cabinet

minister. Samphan remains a respected figure among many Cambodians. In a recent confidential

UNTAC analysis of public sentiment in Phnom Penh, obtained by the Phnom Penh Post,

UNTAC analysts concluded that Cambodians had "a marked degree of respect and

sympathy for Khieu Samphan.'' Sihanouk referred to Khieu Samphan in the late 1980s

as "a killer but a patriot.''

But regardless of Sihanouk's and the Khmer Rouge's public ability to work together,

any relationship in a new government is destined to be confrontational. In the 1988

speech, Pol Pot refered to Sihanouk thus: "in the past as in the present and

in the future, 21 (a code name for Sihanouk) is more than 90% rancid due to all sorts

of hedonsim, corruption, financial malfeasance and debauchery and hooligansim.''

Pol Pot says that "Democratic Kampuchea is more than 90% proper and correct.''

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