W hen this newspaper hits the streets on Friday,
June 17, it will already be clear that the talks with the Khmer Rouge have
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
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
Will it be easy? No. Will it be fast? No. But this is how, in
the long run, the KR will be defeated.