ASEAN delegates distanced themselves from talking about the Khmer Rouge issue at
an international peace conference on Southeast Asia, Asia and Europe in Phnom Penh
on August 26.
The mass rebel defection coincided with the three-day work shop on the maintenance
of peace, attended by delegates from eight countries, including Indonesia, Lao PDR,
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
M Rajaretnam, from the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Asean knew
little about the Khmer Rouge problem and needed to learn more about Cambodia. However,
he said it was Asean policy not to interfere in another country's internal affairs.
Jusuf Wanandi of the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Indonesia,
said at the closed-door meeting: "We in Southeast Asia particularly would like
to prevent conflict, but not to [attempt to] find solutions to conflicts already
Rajaretnam said: "Asean's role, therefore, is questionable in terms of conflict
prevention. On the other hand, paradoxically, Asean is successful because in the
last 50 years who has been in Asean have had no conflict."
Wanandi said the idea of conflict prevention within Asean was different from other
parts of the world.
He said that had led to some criticisms: "Why should it be Asean directed? Is
it only bark, and no bite."
He said those critics said that problems were on-going in Korea and Taiwan for instance,
and that Asean was no more than a "talking shop".
Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and
Peace (CICP), said though the Khmer Rouge issue was not discussed, the conference
was a positive effort and the first time that Asean had evaluated Cambodia.
The conference stressed to the Cambodian Government, the United Nations and to NGOs
about the "Asian way" of peace building and conflict prevention - that
of "Asian spirit, Asian flexibility... and consensus through personal relationships".
"Southeast Asia's success so far has depended on strong personalities rather
than strong institutions," said Rajaretnam.
Dr Benny Widyono, the UN secretary-general's representative in Cambodia, said Asian
spirit, approach and flexibility were very important.
He appealed to Asean to help Cambodia with the "rather new concept [of peace
building] in the United Nations".
"UNTAC has been criticized for [failing to disarm the Cambodian factions before
the election], but UNTAC at that time had no choice... If we had waited for that
faction to comply, today maybe UNTAC would still have been here and we could have
had a quagmire like in Somalia," he said.
"No one wants another UNTAC and the UN cannot afford another UNTAC," Widyono
said about the upcoming elections. "Cambodia is a sovereign country and... we
should not interfere [in the next elections]."
Opening the conference, First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh said the two
main coalition parties had resolved their political differences through negotiation
and would not resort to force.
"We will do our best to find an amicable solution to the political differences
to bring stability and prosperity to the well-deserved people of Cambodia."
He said the vibrations are very positive and he shared a common vision for Cambodia
with Hun Sen.
"I am personally determined having embarked on a personal odyssey to continue
and I will not give up the quest for peace and stability with dignity and honor for
In closing, Hun Sen said: "Peace cannot be strong if cooperation is not included.
Peace is a process that has its core."
Hun Sen said peace, stability and security in the region entirely relies on honesty
and honor, determination and respect of sovereignty, territory and not interfering
in the internal affairs of each country."
Hun Sen said since the 1993 elections, the Royal government had concentrated on national
unity and reconciliation and to achieve that goal it was working toward "a tolerant
policy" to appeal to KR army officials and rank and file to give up their jungle
struggle and "senseless fighting and senseless killing of Khmer".
Hun Sen said he had overcome "misunderstandings", revenge, personal disputes
and party discrimination.