Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kevin's views labelled 'regrettable'

Kevin's views labelled 'regrettable'

Kevin's views labelled 'regrettable'

T he Post'sfarewell interview of outgoing Australian Ambassador raised the

ire of Prince Norodom Ranariddh's Cabinet, who issued this response Oct 1.

THE Cabinet of HRH Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, First Prime Minister

of the Royal Government of Cambodia, has learned with profound concern of the extraordinary

remarks made by the outgoing Australian Ambassador to Cambodia - HE Anthony Kevin

- in the Phnom Penh Post newspaper issue of 26 September, 1997. The remarks are particularly

regrettable as they come from the representative of a friendly country which played

a leading role in the negotiations and drafting of the Paris Peace Agreements of

October 1991 and the UNTAC period in Cambodia, whose achievements have now been destroyed

by the coup d'état of July 5-6, 1997.

In this regard, the Cabinet of the First Prime Minister of the Royal Government

of Cambodia wishes to respond as follows:

1) COUP D'ÉTAT:

When Ambassador Kevin refers to the coup d'état as a "trial of strength",

he is expressing an opinion which is in conflict with the opinion of the majority

of the international community, the international press and even His Majesty the

King of Cambodia. Worse, Ambassador Kevin is in direct conflict with his own Foreign

Minister, His Excellency Alexander Downer, who clearly and publicly stated, when

meeting KNP [leader] Sam Rainsy in early August, that Australia condemned the unacceptable

use of force by Hun Sen.

2) FUNCINPEC'S SO-CALLED MILITARY ATTACK:

Ambassador Kevin, during his interview with the Phnom Penh Post, repeats on and

on the same arguments used by Hun Sen to try to justify his elimination of the constitutional

arrangements existing in Cambodia prior to the July coup, in so doing, he shows that

he was either rather ill-informed about the internal situation in Cambodia or that

he has become a public relations executive for Hun Sen.

For instance, Ambassador Kevin claims that FUNCINPEC "was preparing to take

on the state in a military way". This is far from the truth. The Cabinet of

the First Prime Minister recalls that HRH the First Prime Minister wrote, in June

1997, to the Second Prime Minister requesting a reduction of the number of the personal

bodyguards assigned to both Co-Premiers to a maximum of two companies, or 240 bodyguards.

Hun Sen did not reply and unilaterally announced that he was increasing his own bodyguards

to 1,500. Furthermore, the Cabinet recalls that Hun Sen made a point of showing his

own compound in Takhmau, in which there was an abundance of tanks, personnel carriers

and other military equipment to the diplomatic corps, the international press, student

leaders and other visitors.

3) INFILTRATION OF KHMER ROUGE FORCES INTO THE CAPITAL:

Regarding the claim that the First Prime Minister had brought to Phnom Penh so-called

"Khmer Rouge forces" to launch an attack against Hun Sen's forces, it should

be recalled that a Joint Commission presided by HE Sar Kheng, Co-Minister of Interior

and a senior member of the CPP, and including other senior CPP military officers,

visited just prior to the coup the military barracks at Tang Krasang, which were

allegedly the headquarters of these so-called Khmer Rouge squads, and found no evidence

whatsoever of them.

Furthermore, an assessment made by international human rights workers of the political

affiliation of more than 600 persons arrested during the coup and who had been accused

of being Khmer Rouge elements has shown that there is no credible evidence that these

persons were "Khmer Rouge" forces infiltrated into the capital. In most

cases they were regular Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers affiliated with FUNCINPEC

or persons recently recruited by FUNCINPEC and organized in army units. In fact,

in most cases the Khmer Rouge unit numbers for these so-called "Khmers Rouges"

did not correspond to any known Khmer Rouge units operating in Cambodia. Lastly,

none of the more than 40 people summarily executed by Hun Sen were Khmer Rouge but

senior FUNCINPEC officials, as clearly stated in the report submitted to the Cambodian

government by the UN Centre for Human Rights on 21 August, 1997.

4) ELECTIONS:

It is an outright lie for Ambassador Kevin to claim that "FUNCINPEC was notably

uninterested and not serious about preparations for the elections". In fact,

the First Prime Minister, in his capacity both as First PM and as President of FUNCINPEC

had raised the question of FUNCINPEC readiness for the elections on several opportunities

at meetings of the party's Steering Committee. Prince Ranariddh had also requested

the drafting of an electoral law and FUNCINPEC's Steering Committee examined over

several weeks a draft electoral law with amendments proposed by HE Sar Kheng. FUNCINPEC

had established a Committee in charge of elections presided by Mr Seng Run.

The main disagreement between FUNCINPEC and the Cambodian People's Party concerned

the independence of the National Commission of Organization and Verification of Elections,

which was and remains controlled by the CPP and cannot thus be considered truly independent.

5) CAMBODIAN SEAT AT THE UN:

The decision made by the Credentials Committee of the UN General Assembly to leave

the Cambodian seat vacant for the duration of the 52nd session of the UN General

Assembly is consistent with the feelings of the majority of the member states of

the UN, which do not wish to have sitting among them a regime which has come to power

through a bloody coup d'état. For the United Nations to accept the seating

of Hun Sen delegation at the UN General Assembly would be tantamount to renouncing

the results of the UN-organized elections of May 1993 in Cambodia, to accept Hun

Sen's violation of the Paris Peace Agreements and to forget about the principles

of democracy, the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law in

Cambodia.

The Cabinet of the First Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia rejects

the distorted remarks of Ambassador Kevin which are an insult to the intelligence

of the peoples of Cambodia and Australia and to the friendly links existing between

the two countries, and hopes that a new Australian Ambassador to Cambodia will play

a more balanced role in discharging his duties in our country.

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