A detailed peace plan launched Nov. 21 by King Sihanouk proposing terms to bring
the Khmer Rouge (KR) into the new government and avert a return to war has sparked
a flurry of activity in recent days, but there is little indication that a breakthrough
is at hand.
Sihanouk's proposal ushers in what promises to be weeks of intensive last-chance
political negotiation between the government and the Khmer Rouge, brokered by Sihanouk,
which, if not successful, could culminate in a fierce military offensive in January.
But the KR have yet to accept the terms of Sihanouk's proposal and the government
is balking at even meeting the guerrilla's.
Sihanouk proposed the KR would have to meet three conditions to be offered a role
in the government: end all acts of violence and warfare; dissolve their army and
integrate it into the new Royal Armed Forces; and return territory under their control
to the new Royal government.
In return "the Royal Government of Cambodia would give some positions as co-ministers,
co-vice-ministers, co-secretaries of state and advisors to some 'acceptable' PDK
personalities....The King, for His part would name a high PDK personality as one
of His high special advisors," Sihanouk proposed.
Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan flew to Beijing to meet with Sihanouk on 28 November,
and issued a statement responding to the King's proposal.While noticeably avoiding
accepting the terms of Sihanouk's proposal, Samphan lauded Sihanouk for his "intelligent
initiative to resolve the serious situation facing Cambodia" and said:"On
behalf of the entire PDK...I express my happiness in welcoming , assisting, and supporting
your initiative in proposing talks, consultations and working meetings between the
PDK and the government."
"The PDK is always ready and happy to take part in talks...without preconditions...we
are ready to meet anytime in Phnom Penh, Beijing,where you are receiving medical
treatment, or anyplace, with the aim of achieving national reconciliation,"
But the reaction from the new Royal government remained cool. "If Khieu Samphan
wants to come meet with me, he has to come up with something concrete-not just blah,
blah, blah," Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh responded while officiating at
a ceremony for Khmer Rouge defectors who were joining the Royal Armed Forces.
At a press conference on 30 November, 2nd Prime Minister Hun Sen estimated there
was only a "one percent chance" that talks would be held with the Khmer
Rouge and warned of a "general mobilization" of the armed forces if peace
Ranariddh has said the Khmer Rouge must meet four conditions before the two sides
could even sit down at the same table to talk. They are: recognize the Monarchy;
recognize the constitution; recognize the new government; and cease referring to
the government as puppets of Vietnam.
Khmer Rouge officials say they refuse to recognize the new government because it
is controlled by Vietnam. "We recognize the results of the election, and we
recognize the constitution, but the formation of the new government did not follow
the democratic process. Those who won the election lost the government," a Khmer
Rouge official told the Post.
Meanwhile, the government suggested in a November 22 internal memorandum that the
token Khmer Rouge office still in Phnom Penh may be shut down-effectively shutting
the only official negotiating channels left in Cambodia. A senior Khmer Rouge official
told the Post that "closing the office can only be seen as closing the door
on national reconciliation."
While analysts say much of the intransigence is initial political posturing, the
fact remains that the sides cannot even agree to sit down at the table, little less
discuss the difficult substantive issues necessary to avoid a return to warfare as
Cambodia enters another dry season.
But despite the gloomy scenario on the surface, many analysts hold out hope that
political talks will commence in coming weeks and that an uneasy agreement that will
avoid open military conflict may be achieved.
They point to the fact that Prince Sihanouk is openly supportive of a political settlement
that includes the Khmer Rouge, and that no political faction can afford to be seen
as opposing the initiatives of the King.
Diplomats and Funcinpec officials say that Hun Sen and some CPP leaders are most
opposed to including the Khmer Rouge.
"The CPP has no reason to include the KR in the government," said a senior
Cambodian official,"But they know they cannot prevent the KR from being included
in the government, because everyone has to respect the King. But the CPP will delay,
provoke the Khmer Rouge, create obstacles."
Some analysts argue that the KR presence in the government and, particularly, military,
will benefit Funcinpec by providing a counterbalance to the CPP, who have retained
effective control of the military, security apparatus, and much of the provincial
political structures and beauracracy.
Others point to the Funcinpec election platform which said only they could negotiate
with the KR, end the war, and bring about national reconciliation through a political
solution. "Funcinpecfeels it is the peace party. It has to deliver peace. It
can't let the hotheads (within the new government)take over,"said one diplomat.
The governments co-defense minister Tea Chamrath told the Post last week the new
government would encourage a political solution to end the conflict. "We have
had 21 years of fighting-how many people have died? During the war, we have lost
everything, people running from village to village, everybody suffering. We don't
want war again. We want maximum negotiations. All Cambodians don't want to fight
anymore."he said. But he acknowledged that if negotiations failed, war was inevitable.
Analysts say that the key goal of the Khmer Rouge is inclusion of their military
within the structure of the new Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. While they seek roles
within the political structures of the new government, they will attempt to seek
real influence within the army as a means to prevent a military assault on their
territory. "They will never abandon their territory, because the CPP would start
to kill them if they had no leverage,"said one senior Cambodian official,"But
the Khmer Rouge's future is on the political battlefield, and they know that."
"The main objective of the KR is to be legal-no longer outlaws. They know the
problems of the new government will be very big-social justice, corruption, economic"
issues and they want the focus on that rather than them, said the source.
"We want an equilibrium of forces in Cambodia, so that everyone can participate
in national political life safely," said a KR official,"There should be
one army composed of all the forces. If we entered the elections, we would have had
to give up our territory, and we would have been killed because we couldn't protect
ourselves. But this does not mean we opposed the elections...we immediately recognized
the results of the elections...but we demand that the results of the elections be
implemented. The Vietnamese controlled party has quickly taken control,"he said.
Those who support the inclusion of the Khmer Rouge in the new government acknowledge
that there is little chance that they will peacefully relinquish their territory
in the jungles of the far north and west for a number of years. "They will be
both in the jungle and in the ministrys,"said one senior Cambodian official,"
They will not give up their territory, but they will stop fighting. And stopping
fighting is a very big victory. Then other things can be negotiated, even if it takes
Said the KR official: "Everybody wants peace. We want peace. But how can we
go blindly. We must have a stick before entering the cage of the tiger. We have to
discuss how to unify the army so we feel safe and they feel safe." He said that
his group "trusts Prince Sihanouk as the wisest man...it is up to him to make
the arrangements and give advice for how to achieve national reconciliation."
In his 21 Nov. message from Beijing, Sihanouk attacked the Khmer Rouge for their
intransigent stance. "In the CPP, there is the plausibility of compatriots sympathetic
to Vietnam, but to accuse them of being pro Vietnamese traitors and -by association-against
Cambodian independence, this is to go too far with contempt for the Khmer Race....(and)
to say that the Royal regime of 1993-civil and military-is not yet liberated from
the Protectorate or "Yuan" colonialism, this is profoundly unjust and morally
unacceptable....the NADK has killed, very cruelly and senselessly, a certain number
of Vietnamese civilian residents, including innocent elderly, women and children,
which has brought on us, the Khmer people, the reprobation and condemnation of the
"The NADK, since the signing...of the Paris Peace Accords, has only destroyed
bridges, cut roads and railroads, laid new landmines, burned villages, stolen livestock
and other goods, all things which belong to the Khmer people, today more ruined,
more wounded than ever and from which the 'yuons' would not gain in any way."
Sihanouk, in concluding his peace proposal, said the problem could " not be
settled without the involvement and preliminary working meetings with the Royal Cambodian
Government. It is also necessary that the Royal Cambodian Government pulls it's own
weight....Each must assume his own responsibilities in the face of history, of the
nation and the people."