Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Flawed Interpretation?

Flawed Interpretation?

Flawed Interpretation?

The 4 Dec. issue of the "Phnom Penh Post" summarized my opinion in an article

entitled "UNTAC Approach Flawed, analyst says." Reactions to that article

were published in the following issue of your newspaper.

Usually I do not react about articles explaining my position. Being a former journalist

I respect the freedom of the press and I know very well how it is difficult reporting

exactly what is in someone's mind. But this time, according to the very polemic,

badly informed and rude letter of Mr Allen Myers (who should re-read History, Geography

and before criticizing me, read my own publications), it seems that the summary of

what I have expressed was so caricatural that it created ground for misinterpretation.

I would appreciate having the opportunity to explain myself my position to your readers.

I have never suggested "racial cleansing" in Cambodia or elsewhere in the

world. It is insulting to an activist on Human Rights, who has been fighting since

more than twenty-five years against racism and all kinds of intolerance (racial,

political and religious) to write that I am establishing "the principles of

preemptive racial cleansing." To prevent racial conflicts in a country where

there were pogroms is a duty of any observer recognizing that there is a real problem.

I prefer not to be blind.

Already in May 1990, in a report entitled "The attitude of the West contributes

to the return of Pol Pot" and in July 1990 during a testimony to the Committee

on Foreign Affairs of the US Senate, I have raised that question explaining how "the

traditional chauvinism of the Khmers, their aversion to all things Vietnamese, are

nowadays becoming a mass phenomenon. An easy outlet for all frustrations, anti-Vietnamese

feeling has today reached dangerous proportions."

In all my analysis and especially in the recent "Cambodian Chronicles,"

I have tried to explain the political use made by the Khmer Rouge of xenophobia and

racism. Let me quote "Cambodian Chronicles V-Dialogue of the deaf in a volatile

context" (Sep. 7 1992):

"Politically speaking, the Khmer Rouge are in the process of achieving a masterstroke

worthy of French leader of the extreme right, J.M. le Pen. Like the latter, they

contaminate all political discussion with racist comments, in their case exacerbating

to the point of obsession the anti-Vietnamese feelings of the great majority of Cambodians.

By attributing all the evil the Cambodians have suffered and are still suffering

to the Vietnamese, Pol Pot hits the bullseye every time:

  • He is playing on a general weakness of the Cambodians who have a tendency too

    often to blame all ills on others.

  • He is all too willing to encourage a latent xenophobia and racism in a people

    who have been invaded and occupied far too often.

  • He puts himself forward as a great nationalist which would appear to be a winning

    argument when it comes to elections (even if, as always playing on ignorance and

    illusions, he is himself flouting national interests by supplying mines for precious

    stones and areas of forest to rapacious Thai Businessmen).

  • He provides a clear and simple explanation for what was effectively self-genocide

    in the absence of any historical research and any tentative explanation by the Cambodians

    themselves. By doing this, he is able to make many of them stop feeling guilty and

    incapable of assuming the disgrace of Cambodians massacring Cambodians.

  • He continues to encourage more socio-economic instability, by pushing for the

    departure of several thousand Vietnamese civilians who are very active (very often

    in areas abandoned by the Cambodians themselves) in the fishing industry, market

    gardening, various trades as well as the contsruction industry, all of which is bound

    to lead to a complete catastrophe in food supply and the economy generally. Only

    the Khmer Rouge stand to benefit from this.

  • He encourages splits between the non-Khmer Rouge parties, blocking any reconciliation

    between the FUNCINPEC and KPNLF on the one side and the CPP on the other-a reconciliation

    which would isolate the Khmer Rouge.

  • He manipulates the FUNCIPEC and KPNLF by demanding the dismantling of the Hun

    Sen government because these two parties cannot see beyond the electoral timetable

    and any considerably weakened political adversary instead of concerning themselves

    with the general weakening of all resistance to the Khmer Rouge.

Proof of the success of the anti-Vietnamese political campaign led by Pol Pot

is the increased sympathy within the KPNLF and certain elements of FUNCINPEC. The

very strong declarations made by Mr. Akashi, calling for more tolerance and condemning

all racist attitudes (Jul. 23, 1992) has fallen on stony ground with the Cambodian

population, with the remarkable and courageous exception of Prince Sihanouk."

And I summarized in "Cambodian Chronicles VI-The lost gamble" (Nov. 15,

1992) what I had said to journalists but also to senior Vietnamese officials in Hanoi:

"Just as it is time to ask Thailand to meet all its obligations, it is also

time to involve Vietnam more. The danger of a racist explosion in Cambodia justifies

such an involvement. It is urgent that Vietnam, with the support of the other signatory

governments of the "Peace" Agreement, take initiatives which contribute

to reducing tension in Cambodia. The text of the communique signed at the end of

the meeting between Prince Sihanouk and Mr Nguyen Manh Cam, the Vietnamese Foreign

Affairs Minister (Jan. 25, 1992) may constitute a point of reference in this respect.

But new and much bolder initiatives are needed if one really wishes to avoid a new

tragedy. It is in this direction that diplomacy must prove its imagination and perseverance."

Among these initiatives I still suggest, before negotiations between the Cambodian

elect government and the Hanoi government, a strong control of the immigration at

the border, an appeal launched by the Vietnamese authorities to their fellow citizens

recently arrived in Cambodia promoting their return home, the registration of all

the residents in Cambodia putting an end to the polemic about the real figures, and

a low profile adopted by Vietnamese involved in intelligence activities (Cambodia

is a key element for the national security of Vietnam and the history of the seventies

gives the right to the Vietnamese to protect their interests. I have no problem about

that, but as all intelligence networks in the world. the Vietnamese one in Cambodia

has to be discreet).

I have never said so simply "this is time for the Vietnamese to go home."

But I repeat that this is time to find human and legal solutions trying to decrease

the racial tension in Cambodia-and this is time for Vietnam to contribute to that.

If there are new pogroms, it could be not only the end of the peace process, but

also the end of Cambodia.


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