The continuing betrayal of Cambodia


Cambodia — the Betrayal

By John Pilger

Reviewed by Helen Jarvis

ABC Television finally screened John Pilger's latest film on Sunday night. Although Pilger is Australian, we only got to see it months after it was shown in more than 30 other countries. Such is the character of the Australian television industry, fearful not to offend Bob Hawke and Gareth Evans, both of whom have made hostile personal attacks on Pilger.

Although now almost six months old, the film has not become outdated at all — in fact the sad story it tells has become even worse in the intervening period, as the UN "peace plan" sits on the shelf and acts as an obstacle to restoration of normal relations with the State of Cambodia.

Cambodia — the Betrayal opens with images of amputees on hospital beds, peasants ploughing their fields and various items of military hardware. Pilger then embarks on an investigation of where the ammunition comes from that blows peasants' legs off as they work in their fields. Brand names and serial numbers show many items come from Europe and the US as well as from China, which is well known to supply the Khmer Rouge forces with weapons, including tanks.

Specific cases are shown of CIA and SAS involvement in training Cambodian anti-government forces, and even of a warehouse owned by the UN Border Relief Operation being leased to the US government and used for storage of Khmer Rouge munitions!

Since the film was made, there are even more startling revelations. The US Congress has voted $20 million for "humanitarian aid" for Cambodia, but it is being directed only to the border and the "contested zones" inside the country, not to the overwhelming majority of the population in areas under government control.

The UNBRO and UN High Commission for Refugees are training refugees in the border camps in police work, with help from UK and Australian police, and in so doing are preparing personnel selected by the Khmer Rouge to take up police jobs inside Cambodia if and when a settlement is reached — or beforehand if the Khmer Rouge decides to send them into the "contested zones", as they are now doing with thousands of border refugees.

Pilger makes a convincing case that the UN recognition of the anti-government coalition (1983-1990) and the process of drawing up and insisting on a "comprehensive political settlement"

have given Pol Pot a veto on peace.

The "fragile normality" that has been reconstructed in Cambodia since 1979 (when Pilger's first film on Cambodia, Year Zero, was made) is being threatened, as China, the Western countries and the UN set the stage for a Khmer Rouge return to power.

The UN peace plan, promoted so vigorously by Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, has even less likelihood of implementation in the wake of the Gulf War, now that funds and credibility are even scarcer commodities than when the plan was first floated in late 1989.

Pilger's plea for immediate recognition of the Hun Sen government in Cambodia and for restoration of direct aid is even more timely today. The Australian Cambodia Support Committee has issued a press release in conjunction with the film's screening calling for such recognition and aid, for an immediate cease-fire and an end to arms supplies, and for the release by the UN of the funds for Cambodia, now being withheld pending a settlement.