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Given that they have withdrawn from the electoral process, a constituent assembly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