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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Will There Be a Role for the KR?

Will There Be a Role for the KR?

The Provisional National Government of Cambodia (PNGC) has begun functioning with

two co-presidents, Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, who were once bitter enemies.

They have now, at least for the present time, worked out their differences and agreed

to bury the hatchet and sit at the same table. The new cabinet, comprising 60 ministers

and vice-ministers, received unanimous approval from the constituent assembly and

is now beginning to assume its duties. The 120-seat constituent assembly has begun

work on drafting a constitution so as to allow a permanent government to take its

place within three months as mandated by the 1991 Paris peace accords.

The assembly restored the old flag which flew over Cambodian soil until 1970. The

old national anthem was played, except for a few words that were omitted. The main

national day is once again Nov. 9-the date Cambodia obtained independence from France.

So, the country seems to be returning to its past which was Prince Sihanouk's era.

"We are entering a new era which is a real liberal democracy," Ranariddh

said on June 30.

Given these achievements of the four election-winning parties accompanied by persistent

efforts of Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who has been given special powers

and full credit as a unique national healer, the Khmers are enjoying what Ranariddh

called "a factor of stability."

The Khmer Rouge (KR), a signatory to the peace agreement from which they later withdrew,

are being left off the bus by their former guerrilla allies-the royalist FUNCINPEC

and BLDP-who fought along with them to oust the Vietnamese-installed Phnom Penh regime.

The formation of the interim joint administration-though its existence is short-has

dealt a tough blow to the KR leadership and left them little room to maneuver.

From recognizing the election and the provisional coalition, the group is looking

at the possibility of reopening its office in Phnom Penh. Perhaps PDK (Party of Democratic

Kampuchea) president Khieu Samphan, who fled into exile in April because of what

he said were security reasons, wants to retain his connection with the SNC (Supreme

National Council) before it expires. In his letter dated June 28, he thanked Sihanouk

for helping arrange a meeting between KR special envoys and U.N. officials. Three

days later, he hastily sent off Chan You Rann and Mak Ben to meet with Prince Sihanouk,

the chief of the U.N. peacekeeping operation Yasushi Akashi and UNTAC Force Commander

General John Sanderson.

"We support the principles of national reconciliation. We've worked hard for

the sake of national reconciliation," Chan You Rann, KR ambassador to Beijing,

said in Phnom Penh.

The last two weeks marked a 'new strategy', as Sihanouk once said, in the policy

of the KR by demonstrating solidarity with the national community which they led

to complete disaster during Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror. Blamed for the killings

of dozens of U.N. personnel, the hardline guerrilla group now appears keen to restore

friendly ties.

"It is very strange that now they (KR) have become real allies of UNTAC after

fighting it very seriously. I think they are trying to catch the train that not only

they missed, but that they tried to sabotage. The train is going on, so why not try

to catch the train of peace," said Prince Ranariddh.

Their meetings were focused on the preparation for Khieu Samphan's return and under

what conditions the NADK (National Army of Democratic Kampuchea) troops can be included

as part of the national army of a stable government.

Foreign observers and Cambodian politicians say that by withdrawing from the whole

peace process the KR made a dire miscalculation about the election that they were

determined to disrupt at all costs. As a result of the massive turnout despite threats

and intimidation and the free and fair character of the polls, isolation is clearly

unavoidable for the KR who lack popular support, and the lost their former allies.

"We've never shut the door to them. They have shut the door to us. I think the

have reflected on their own mistakes" said Akashi.

Despite their firm attitude toward the KR, leaders of the Cambodian People's Party

have demonstrated welcoming signals to open up direct dialogue with the group they

pledged to eliminate.

"I do not oppose people who can work for the benefit of the nation," said

Hun Sen. "My personal view is that it is better to reconcile than to fight each

other. This is exactly the aspiration of our people who want at all cost to avoid


The question is whether or not the Khmer Rouge, despite finding themselves on the

horns of a dilemma, are really softening their position. However, U.N. diplomats

and Cambodian leaders are taking cautious steps in scrutinizing the developing situation

and are waiting to see to what distance the PDK is ready to go.

"We need to see exactly what they have in mind," said UNTAC Spokesman Eric


Prince Sihanouk, who led the KR-dominated tripartite coalition government, has recently

told his beloved compatriots to be aware of the KR's 'sweet words'. He said for the

sake of a new strategy the KR had to soften because they gave up on the people.

"Their mind will remain the same unless Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok and Nuon

Chea die. Anyway, we don't have to punish them like this. If they're lucky, they

can live for a hundred years, and let them be. But as long as they are still alive

don't expect them to change. They change their policy, but not honestly, just in

a new strategy," Sihanouk told members of the Constituent Assembly and the interim

government at the oath taking ceremony on July 2.

Sihanouk's speech spelled out his commitment to find a solution to the partition

of his homeland by using a gentle policy to make the KR satisfied. Inevitably, he

will have to make a trade-off between a KR role in the country's future and foreign

aid. He will have to make sure that barriers to foreign aid will not be set up, so

his policy must clear the way for aid to flow in for the rehabilitation and reconstruction

of Cambodia.

"It is my idea that we should be very gentle with them (KR) until we can resolve

the secession of Pailin. It must handed over to the nation," said the prince.

Any new government that includes the KR will not find favor with the United States.

During her short visit to Cambodia last week, Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador

to the United Nations and a member of U.S. President Clinton's cabinet, stressed

the continuing U.S. efforts to keep pressure on the Khmer Rouge.

She hinted that, for their return, the KR will be compelled to go back to various

aspects to the articles in the Paris peace agreement, such as compliance with the

cease-fire giving free access to UNTAC into their zone, and cantonment and disarmament

of their troops.

"We hope that American policy played a constructive role in keeping the pressure

on the Khmer Rouge...and in making clear that U.S. support would only go to those

who accepted these first-ever free and fair elections," the ambassador said.

"Basically, it is up to the Cambodian people to decide what they want, and we

will look at it. But the American government would find it very difficult to support

a [Cambodian] government that includes the Khmer Rouge," she said.

Observers still believe that priority must be given to Cambodia's overwhelming financial

problems before anything else. What has to be done right now is to create an atmosphere

of credit, stability and order by providing adequate wages for more than 250,000

soldiers, police and thousands of civil servants who are working under a new status.

The estimated U.S $30 millionthat is needed to see the government throught the transition

period is late and the interim administration is facing a worsening security situation

with incidents of banditry and killings occurring throughout the capital and countryside.

It is important that foreign nations should continue their commitment to help rebuild

and reconstruct Cambodia. A new reality for those commitments to come into effect

is that a stable government must be created.

It is too early to make any judgment about the changes in KR policy. Cambodian leaders

admitted that the goal to destroy the KR on the fields of combat can never be achieved.

They will completely give up only if the living conditions of the people will be

improved, when the people have enough to eat.

"Preventing the KR revolution from succeeding or fighting them, it is useless

to use violence or bombs at all. But, if we can make the poor less poor, farmers

rich, and ensure social justice, if we do it this way, we beat the KR automatically,"

Sihanouk said.



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