Cambodian PM speaks in Sydney

Wednesday, November 6, 1991

By Helen Jarvis

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Australia last week and was welcomed by an unprecedented display of unity in the Khmer community. A packed dinner of more than 500 people at Fairfield on October 27 gave an enthusiastic response to his long and relaxed talk, particularly when he stated his total commitment to oppose any return to power of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen was returning from Paris, where the Cambodian peace accords were signed on October 23, after four years' negotiations. Four documents were signed amplifying the framework agreement reached in September 1990 in Jakarta by the two parties to the Cambodian conflict — the governing State of Cambodia and the opposition National Government of Cambodia (a coalition of the Khmer Rouge, Sihanoukists and a conservative grouping led by Son Sann).

In the framework agreement the SOC was forced by economic and political conditions, including strongarm tactics from China and the West, to accept the inclusion of the Khmer Rouge in the Supreme National Council (SNC), a body established to hold Cambodia's sovereignty until elections are held under United Nations supervision.

In the past year, the military strength of the SOC has enabled it to resist the very negative interpretation of the framework adopted by the Permanent Five members of the Security Council last November, such as the total disbanding of its armed forces and dismantling of its governmental structure, which could only have advantaged the Khmer Rouge irregular forces.

The terms of the accords finally signed provide for retention of 30% of armed forces on both sides, and for the retention of the existing administrations, with the UN exercising some as yet to be determined supervision of five ministries deemed to have the potential to influence the elections: Defence, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Information.

Former king, prime minister and prince Norodom Sihanouk has played a more positive role since the meeting of the SNC in Thailand in July, announcing his abandonment of the leadership of his faction in the NGC in order to play a neutral role as president of the SNC.

In this capacity, he appears to have worked closely with Hun Sen in preparing the final draft of the accords, and it has been proposed that Sihanouk stand for president and Hun Sen for prime minister in the coming elections. The Khmer Rouge and Son Sann's KPNLF appear to have been increasingly marginalised.

Hun Sen spoke quite cynically of US secretary of state James Baker's newly found horror at Khmer Rouge atrocities — expressed after the accords were signed, and after the US had spent 12 years opposing those who had overthrown the Khmer Rouge and were trying to rebuild Cambodia. "Now we finally agree with what you have pressed upon us, you start to worry", Hun Sen said. As to the proposal by the Khmer Rouge that the SOC create an enclave in Phnom Penh surrounded by UN soldiers to ensure their security, Hun Sen said: "They already forced the evacuation of Phnom Penh once before, in 1975. There is no way that we will once again allow them to drive the people out of the city or any part of it."

Hun Sen appealed to the overseas Cambodians to exercise their right to vote in the coming elections, to express their opposition to the Khmer Rouge and to consider returning home. He assured them that they can stay anywhere in the country with their relatives, and are free to invest and participate in economic activities.

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