Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UNTAC Agitprop

UNTAC Agitprop

UNTAC Agitprop

Editors:

It is becoming increasingly clear that UNTAC's press briefings are nothing but agitprop,

and by not being more critical, you are discouragingly lowering the standards of

your paper. I was hoping for better from the Phnom Penh Post.

The UNTAC line deserves rebuttal because stories are being printed without question

in newspapers throughout Southeast Asia, giving the world a false sense of UNTAC

accomplishments.

To be specific, the figures of demobilized soldiers are fallacious; i.e. those allegedly

cantoned throughout the country. One would guess this is an effort to show the world

that UNTAC is carrying out its mandate, and to put pressure on the Khmer Rouge, which

is not participating in this phase of the peace process.

The latest figures given are over 16,000. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find

more than 500 soldiers actually living in cantonments. Sure, there are about a hundred

CPAF [Hun Sen army] air force technicians and mechanics living near Pochentong Airport.

(Are they really soldiers?) And there are handfuls of other soldiers living close

to or near cantonments in a couple of military sectors.

But the way UNTAC tells it, the figure of 16,000 represents soldiers who have disarmed

and are residing in barracks. It's simply not true, and I challenge any journalist

to go and see for him or herself.

Perhaps the discrepancy stems from bad diction: In Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary,

cantonment is defined as "the quartering of troops" or alternatively, "a

group of more or less temporary structures for housing troops."

This is markedly different from troop registration, whereby soldiers of three of

the four political factions have shown up at cantonments, give their names and ranks,

and then either do not hand in weapons at all or hand in the rustiest and oldest

of their guns (so they can keep at their bedside their new, functioning weapons).

They then return home; and never appear again.

In case anyone hasn't heard, there's fighting going on in this country, and no soldier

of any faction is about to hand in his or her weapon and return home unarmed.

This bad diction also distorts what UNTAC is prepared to provide in the cantonments.

Are there really barracks for demobilized soldiers to live in? Are there really adequate

daily rations for one and all, so that soldiers could live on site instead of at

their homes in surrounding villages? What has changed from the way these soldiers

have been living for the past 13 years?

While I am loyal to the principle behind UNTAC's mission here, and am hopeful that

UNTAC can carry it out successfully, more truth and less fiction might help the world

understand just how difficult it is to bring peace to Cambodia.

- Name withheld on request

MOST VIEWED

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • Hun Sen’s China visit ‘a good opportunity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Beijing on Sunday to discuss economic and trade issues presents a good opportunity for the Kingdom to strengthen Chinese ties and counter punitive measures by the West, an analyst says. The prime minister’s four-day official visit to

  • Former chief bodyguard receives royal pardon

    The former chief bodyguard of late Senate president Chea Sim has received a royal pardon nearly eight years after he was sentenced to 15 years behind bars on several charges, according to a royal decree dated November 12, last year, and obtained by The Post on Wednesday.

  • Close to the edge: Hair raising pictures from Kulen Mountain

    A new hair raising attraction on Kulen Mountain has finally opened to the public, with people flocking to the protruding cliff edge overlooking green mountainous forests to take photographs. The giant overhanging rock is situated in an area known as Mahendraparvata – an ancient city of