Cambodia maintains a fragile peace

Issue 

By Stephen Robson

PHNOM PENH — After the adoption of a new constitution, the 22,000-strong forces of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) are withdrawing.

On September 21, the 120-person Constituent Assembly endorsed a proposal to restore the monarchy, albeit with limited powers and no inheritance. Prince Norodom Sihanouk then became king.

With the ending of the interim government established after the May elections, Prince Ranariddh became first prime minister and Hun Sen second prime minister.

In the election Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC received 45% of the vote and the Cambodian People's Party 38%. FUNCINPEC picked up 58 seats, the CPP 51, the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party 10 and Moulinaka, an offshoot of FUNCINPEC, one.

Detailed allegations by the Cambodian People's Party regarding the breaking of seals on ballot boxes were ignored by the UNTAC forces conducting the elections.

Whether ballot tampering may have altered the overall result, it is also clear that FUNCINPEC benefited from the "Nicaragua-isation" of Cambodia.

UNTAC in many instances was openly hostile to the Cambodian People's Party. Opposition political parties had plenty of money to splash around, from sources that were never disclosed.

However, the alliance between the CPP and FUNCINPEC seems likely to continue. FUNCINPEC has little organisational structure or experience. The forces that CPP can call on are still critical to bringing peace and stability. An indication of this is the fact that many of the provincial governors are CPP members.

Decision-making is still by consensus between the two prime ministers.

For the CPP, going into opposition to a FUNCINPEC government would have likely led to a very unstable situation — something the Khmer Rouge could have capitalised on. In this context, the constitutional monarchy may be not so much a setback as a breathing space to help the country get on its feet.

The military forces of the Khmer People's National Liberation Front and troops loyal to Norodom Sihanouk have joined with the 200,000-strong State of Cambodia armed forces.

The unified armed forces are now getting regular pay — a problem before the elections due to budget crises and interference by UNTAC.

Military action in August in the north-western province of Banteay Meanchey by the Cambodian armed forces resulted in significant territory losses and 600-700 defections for the Khmer Rouge.

An offensive in the central northern province of Kompong Thom resulted in the surrender of 400 officers and troops from the Khmer Rouge's 616 Division by August 28.

Other offensives in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces also forced the KR to retreat from territory it had gained since the signing of the Paris peace agreement in October 1991.

Defections have lost the Khmer Rouge up to 2000 troops. However, there is some evidence that most defectors were recruits from the late '80s, rather than the hardened forces who have been with the KR from the beginning. And with 10,000 troops, the KR is still a significant force.

Continued international solidarity is necessary to isolate the KR and bring peace to Cambodia. A particular need is to break the close links between the Thai military and the KR.

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