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Comment: With failed talks, what's next?

Comment: With failed talks, what's next?

W hen this newspaper hits the streets on Friday,

June 17, it will already be clear that the talks with the Khmer Rouge have

failed.

The likelihood of the sort of compromise necessary for a

substantive agreement is exactly zero. This is a personal conclusion but one I

sense many others who are better informed than I share this viewpoint on the eve

of the talks.

Since Pyongyang, government statements have expressed

extreme pessimism at every turn about what might be accomplished in the "working

committee" talks.

First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, upon his

return from Pyongyang said: "I think the Royal Government does not have any

choice but to fight the Khmer Rouge."

When the Foreign Minister Prince

Norodom Sirivudh returned from Europe, he said: "The two Prime Ministers are not

happy about Pyongyang. The Khmer Rouge showed that they are not

sincere."

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, at an airport press conference,

said: "The KR demand is beyond the limit. They suggest establishing a new

government by dissolving the National Assembly and current government. The

compensation to be paid is far bigger than what we can do."

The Khmer

Rouge demands are extreme. There is no reason to believe that they will change.

And there is no reason why the government should accept them; there is every

reason to reject them.

Apparently, the KR believe that they have no

reason to compromise, and in this they are right. The government will not oust

them from their territories anytime soon, and if their long-term survival is

unlikely, as most believe it is, that consideration weighs very lightly on these

negotiations.

So why hold the talks? In part, out of respect to King

Sihanouk. Perhaps, as Prince Sirivudh has suggested, to create a useful media

image for international consumption - something to moderate the recent images of

war and severed heads.

But with the failure of the talks, what is the

next step?

Keep talking for as long and as often as the KR are willing to

participate. Negotiation failures are much less costly than military failures.

When the KR stop participating, keep inviting them as publicly as possible until

they start talking again.

Don't declare them outlaws and don't fight

them. Work to isolate them internationally, and domestically. The Second Prime

Minister has already indicated how this is to be done.

Hun Sen said

recently: "Politically and legitimately, the KR are already dead. If we want

them to die, they will die. And if we want them to be alive they will be alive.

Their military activities are sabotage and destruction, but not a civil

war."

Hun Sen pointed to the answer to the Khmer Rouge that Prince

Ranariddh had already provided: "In November 1993, Ranariddh declared at

Pochentong that the KR were not the problem. Rather, the problem was the

development of the social economy.

"The most effective bomb [against the

KR] is the development of the social economy. The lesson from Malaysia and

Thailand is that the communists can be defeated without the use of weapons.

Rural development, the development of the social economy, the creation of social

justice and the elimination of corruption are the major problems of the Royal

Government."

Will the Royal Government be able to ignore the security

problem that the KR will continue to constitute? The Royal Government has no

choice but to re-organize, slim down, discipline and train its forces. Prince

Sirivudh has brought back news that this kind of military aid is

available.

Will it be easy? No. Will it be fast? No. But this is how, in

the long run, the KR will be defeated.

 

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