What is UNTAC actually doing? Plenty of Cambodians are wondering and so are not a
few foreigners. Visible daily activities seem to include much to-ing and fro-ing
in white vehicles with "U.N." painted on the side. At night, staff are
inevitably noticed in restaurants because so many live in hotels, obviously living
well compared to the average Cambodian. Something similar is true up-country where
our military units also risk perceptions that they are isolated because they have
set up their own camps.
At issue is implementation of the political process agreed on by all Cambodian parties
and the world community. The goal is an expression of popular sovereignty through
free and fair elections that can only be held in a politically neutral atmosphere.
The atmosphere can only come about with an acceptance and respect for basic human
rights, most obviously for the concept of the legitimacy of political opposition.
Most importantly, however, the people of Cambodia must believe themselves free from
intimidation and violence, a belief that can only come about through the limitation
of the military capabilities of the four factions.
This is enormously complicated and challenging, and it is not entirely obvious what
UNTAC staff is doing to effect it. Certainly, some UNTAC activities are highly visible:
repatriation of refugees; the establishment of 82 cantonment sites; the patrols by
the Civil Police; the Information Division's T.V. and radio programming for media
of the four factions and that of nations which have a Khmer language service; as
well as the 21 July formal opening in Kandal of one of our provincial control offices.
Yet it is true, as we deploy our battalions-whether of peacekeeping troops or civilian
staff- that we have been, to a degree, focused on internal administrative matters.
UNTAC is just now emerging from this teething process.
The result is the deployment throughout Cambodia of 14,860 peacekeeping troops from
30 countries. It means the establishment of offices of the Civil Administration component
in 18 provinces; it includes over 100 investigations of complaints alleging violations
of human rights. It has seen the detailed examination of twenty provinces by the
Electoral Component and the ongoing training of provincial electoral staff for the
registration process to start in October.
But, none of this can result in achieving all the many goals of the Paris agreement
without the full and active participation of all four Cambodian factions and, indeed,
of all of the Cambodian people.
The political position of one of the four factions has resulted in delay of the process
of cantonment and thus delay in laying down of arms and demobilizing the 70 percent
of armed forces called for by the peace accords. This puts stress on all the other
processes, including the vital effort to register voters so the 1993 elections can
take place in a timely manner.
In thanking the Phnom Penh Post for the opportunity to address you readers through
this regular column, I would like to foreshadow some of my future themes.
Rehabilitation and reconstruction of Cambodia, as the media has reported, has received
a heavy vote of support from the world community with $880 million pledged in Tokyo
I will also address how complicated questions of definition of terms in the Paris
agreements have served either as matters of real concern or as mere delaying tactics.
In addition I hope to discuss UNTAC's role in direct control and in supervision as
it concerns various sectors, including the press.
In the meantime, let me reiterate my welcome to the Post among the media serving
to print the news in Cambodia.
This is the first in what will be a series of "UNTAC VIEWs" to be presented
by H.E. Yasushi Akashi, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General