THMAR PUOK (AP) - As the United Nations prepares to end its largest peacekeeping
operation ever, battle-weary Cambodians say the world body has failed in its main
aim here-to end 15 years of civil war.
During a five-day trip across the country's two tensest provinces, villagers expressed
dismay that U.N. forces have begun withdrawing this month while the clatter of rifle
fire and the thump of exploding rockets, grenades , and mines still echo across the
The Khmer Rouge guerrilla group fought the former Vietnamese-installed government
for more than a decade. Now it is fighting the armed forces of the newly elected
"I don't think the U.N. did a good job here because they never dealt with the
Khmer Rouge," says Kousum Sarun, a 40-year-old driver in Siem Reap province.
"They did not bring peace."
The 17-month U.N. mission was to monitor a 1991 cease-fire called by the country's
four factions, and to disarm and demobilize the factions' almost 200,000 troops.
But one of the factions, the Khmer Rouge, refused to lay down its weapons. The other
three factions followed suit and skirmishes continued.
By May, the United Nations had spent much of its U.S. $2 billion budget-the biggest
ever for a peacekeeping operation. And having committed 22,000 personnel and tons
of equipment to Cambodia, it pushed ahead with the poll.
About 90 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, and U.N. officials declared
the mission a resounding success.
But the continued Khmer Rouge attacks have villagers questioning the success of the
The Khmer Rouge now controls 20 percent of Cambodia with a fighting force of 10,000
men. The guerrilla group killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians during a brutal
reign in the mid-1970s.
While the new government's flag flaps above the capital, the different flags of the
four factions dot the countryside.
In Banteay Meanchey province, checkpoints remain on roads between villages controlled
by the Khmer Rouge and each of the three other factions. The latter are technically
united under the newly elected government.
Soldiers of each faction keep to their own territory. Villagers get from one zone
to another only by paying hefty bribes to heavily armed soldiers.
"There has been no change at all," says Ngeth Sophon, a 49-year-old project
chief for the U.S. Agency for International Development in the village of Thmar Puok
in Banteay Meanchey province. "They have not yet given up their zones."
Khmer Rouge leaders have recognized the new government and are holding talks to secure
a role in its administration.
But the guerrilla group's soldiers in the countryside say they are under orders to
continue attacks on forces of the former Vietnamese-installed government.
Phing Lor, 27, a Khmer Rouge guerrilla guarding a checkpoint leading into his village,
said he is under orders now to attack twice a week. Another guerrilla, Hour Chea,
18, said he wants peace but doesn't expect it until 1995, when he thinks the Khmer
Rouge will unite with the other factions.
But Col. Hong Sothy, commander of government tank units in Banteay Meanchey and Siem
Reap provinces, says the only way Cambodia will ever be unified is if the Khmer Rouge
is wiped out
"The Khmer Rouge will never stop fighting. Even if some of the Khmer Rouge join
the new government, others will stay in the jungles to fight," Hong says. "The
government will have to kill off the Khmer Rouge by military force. It is the only
"The U.N. has done nothing about the Khmer Rouge," says Yem Han, a 23-year-old
truck driver. "I am angry that the U.N. is leaving now because we still don't
have peace in Cambodia."