I would like to underline that my concern is not to judge, to blame or to condemn, nor to support one side against
another, neither to decide who are the good and the bad Cambodians. I do think that, as a political analyst, my
duty is first of all to try to understand and to share with the Post readers the way I am understanding this country
and its people. After that, and only after that, it is possible to explain and to comment. I would like also to
keep some distance from the day-to-day goings-on and try to put political decisions and events back into a cultural
or historical context.
Let's start with the major achievement of the current government: the disintegration of the Khmer Rouge. Let me
remind readers that after UNTAC failed to implement the Paris Agreements and to disarm the four factions, the way
the UN was dealing with the Khmer Rouge problem was called by Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali himself an example of "patient
diplomacy". The brilliant result of this policy was crystal clear: at the time of the 1993 elections, the
Khmer Rouge had increased by three times what UN documents described as "inaccessible territories" and,
according to the UNTAC spokesperson, "a bridge was blown up every two days".
During its first year in office, the government began by implementing simultaneously two policies: the use of armed
force and negotiations. The new integrated armed forces - remarkably advised by the late Gen. Sak Sutsakhan - were
able to drive back the Polpotists to the zones they controlled before the UN mission. Negotiations, from one roundtable
to the next, failed to reach any agreement.
When - finally! - it was clear to all that the Khmer Rouge goal was power sharing and nothing less, the government
moved to a policy of firmness. The Khmer Rouge office in Phnom Penh was closed despite the disagreement of the
Thai government, a law outlawing Democratic Kampuchea and an amnesty for defectors was adopted by a huge majority
of the National Assembly and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) tried, with successes and failures, to implement
a kind of Malaysian strategy.
Slowly, despite strong criticism and defections within the government, despite continuing support for the Khmer
Rouge by segments of the Thai economic and military complex, this policy was successful. The number of defections
increased among Khmer Rouge soldiers, but also among their officers and their political leaders. The mysterious
Sar Kim Lamouth, a minister in Pol Pot's government and the man in charge of Khmer Rouge finances since 1979 defected
to the Royal Government and officers like Chhouk Rin and Keo Pong joined RCAF. This trend accelerated spectacularly
when, last year, Khmer Rouge officers controlling the areas around Thmar Pouk, Phnom Dei, Phnom Malai, Pailin and
Samlaut started to negotiate with the government. The attempt made by war criminal and mass murderer Ieng Sary
to take over politically this trend failed to prevent the integration of around 3,900 soldiers in the RCAF.
This is a major government achievement: there is no more fighting between Samrong and Koh Kong and these areas
are back into the national territory and under government authority. It is true that the end of the Khmer Rouge
strength has favored a deep division within the government, but this is another story. It doesn't change two key
facts: peace has now come for thousands of Cambodians and the Polpotists have lost their financial resources and
nearly three fifths of their armed forces.
- Raoul Marc Jennar is a political analyst who has published numerous reports on Cambodia. He is the author
of Les Clés du Cambodge and has also published a book on Cambodian Constitutions. He recently re-located
from his home in Belgium to take up residence in Phnom Penh. This commentary is the first of a number he plans
to contribute to the Phnom Penh Post.