W here is the international reaction to Ieng Sary's pardon? asks Julio Jeldres - and beware a possible "Red"
IT was not long ago that a US Secretary of State refused to shake hands with the self-styled "Deputy Prime
Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs of Democratic Kampuchea" at the United Nations General Assembly, and
other diplomats avoided him like the plague. Today, that man, Ieng Sary, is a media star after announcing his break
in ranks with Pol Pot to embrace democracy and capitalism.
For weeks, I have anxiously awaited the reaction of the international community to Hun Sen's decision to pardon
Sary, without a proper investigation of his responsibility in the genocide that took place during Pol Pot's rule.
After all, Sary was not only related by marriage to Pol Pot but was effectively his No.2 in the Khmer Rouge and
his "Special Envoy" to China in the 1970s. But there has been absolute silence!
I, naively, expected the grandiosely-named "Campaign to Oppose the Return of the Khmer Rouge" which,
thanks to a $600,000 grant from the US State Department, transformed itself last year into the "Cambodian
Genocide Program" to enlighten us with the same force they have pursued anyone that has challenged their modus
operandi. But, not surprisingly, they have chosen silence!
Why is there no foreign reaction to Sary's amnesty exonerating him from his involvement in past human rights violations
This is one of the most delicate issues confronting the shaky Cambodian coalition government and it would appear
that little consideration was given by government advisers to the internal and external implications for Cambodia
before negotiations to grant amnesty to Sary began.
These officials did not know the exact strength of the Khmer Rouge. Three weeks before Sary's break with Pol Pot,
Secretary of State for Defense Ek Sereywath told Associated Press that Khmer Rouge guerrillas were down to only
2,000, from 10,000 before the May 1993 UN-supervised elections. Yet Hun Sen, announcing the guerrilla split, claimed
3,000 were about to rally to the government.
Domestically, the Government has to explain to the people why it has become necessary to amnesty Ieng Sary, who
is considered by most Cambodians as responsible as Pol Pot for the horrendous 1975-79 genocide, in which many of
their relatives were murdered.
Hun Sen has argued that by granting the amnesty the war between the Khmer Rouge and the Government will end and
national reconciliation will be achieved. But there is no certainty of either of these two things.
It is clear that this split in the Khmer Rouge leadership, like many things in today's Cambodia, has little to
do with ideology. It is a split caused primarily by differences over power and the control of vast financial resources.
Many thinking Cambodians believe that national reconciliation should be achieved first between the two co-Premiers,
Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who for several months now have had rocky relations.
As deputy Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea, Sary was personally responsible for calling home, in December
1975, all Cambodian ambassadors abroad, the majority of whom were Royalists, non-partisan or simply moderate Khmer
Rouge elements. With the exceptions of the current Minister of Justice, Chem Sgnuon (formerly Ambassador to Algeria)
and the Cambodian Ambassador to France, Hor Nam Hong (formerly Ambassador to Cuba) they were all tortured and executed.
Is it too far-fetched to believe that the decision to grant Sary amnesty, without any impartial investigation,
has more to do with political expediency and lucrative deals in timber and gems than with any genuine desire to
achieve national reconciliation?
In 1994, as Executive Director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, I organized a forum to debate the effect of
a bill to outlaw the Khmer Rouge, and on national reconciliation and human rights. What was the authorities' answer?
I was threatened with expulsion "for interfering in the internal affairs of Cambodia". The bill was passed,
followed by a marked deterioration of human rights.
Externally, the Cambodian government, which has signed most international human rights agreements, has the duty
to ensure that those responsible for past violations are identified and held accountable. As Amnesty International
has pointed out: "Impunity is one of the main contributing factors to continuing cycles of human rights violations
Sary has denied any involvement in genocide. Yet the families of diplomats and students who returned from abroad
and were held at re-education camps in Phnom Penh or in the provinces, and then executed, point to him as primarily
responsible for the camps. Only an impartial investigation will determine if he is guilty of genocide. Such an
investigation is owed by the Cambodian government to the world community, which is generously helping Cambodia's
The lack of political will in Phnom Penh to pursue a proper investigation of Sary's past activities does not, however,
justify the complete lack of international reaction to events unfolding in Cambodia.
At a time when the United States is bombing Iraq to punish a mass murderer, one is appalled to see no reaction
from the US Government to another mass murderer being pardoned. Why is Saddam Hussein bombed and Ieng Sary's amnesty
ignored? Why the double standard?
For Funcinpec and the other non-communist political parties, the issue should be whether this new Khmer Rouge-Cambodian
People's Party rapprochement is part of a bigger design by the remaining communist regimes in the region ie: China
and Vietnam, to close ranks and leave the elected Cambodian non-communists out of the equation.
Surely it is no coincidence that Sary's break with Pol Pot took place soon after Hun Sen's visit to China, where
he signed a cooperation agreement between his CPP and the Chinese Communist Party.
Again, why does the United States and other non-communist sponsors of the Paris Agreements conveniently ignore
the erosion of Cambodia's non-communist position, hard-won in the UN-sponsored 1993 elections?
It is no secret that up to a few months before the Paris Agreements the possibility of a "Red solution"
for Cambodia's problems was considered by China, the then Soviet Union and Vietnam, sending shock waves through
non-communist South East Asia and forcing the US to muscle through a peace agreement that took into consideration
the aspirations of the Cambodian non-communists.
The Soviet initiated proposal argued that only a rapprochement between the two Cambodian communist parties ie,
the pro-Chinese Khmer Rouge and the pro-Vietnamese Cambodian People's Revolutionary Party, would bring permanent
Interestingly, the Soviet proposal singled out four people to be removed from power after the accommodation had
taken place between the Khmer Rouge and the CPRP: Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Ta Mok and Ke Pauk. Nuon Chea was acceptable
and so was Khieu Samphan.
In debating the rights and wrongs of recent events in Cambodia the important question is whether the international
community will show enough political will to protect the newly acquired freedoms Cambodians enjoy today and prevent
any attempt to establish in Cambodia a new "proletarian regime" of the kind Ieng Sary and fellow travelers
imposed on the Khmer people in 1975.
- (Julio A. Jeldres is Honorary Minister and Official Biographer of His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk).