By Sri Kandi
PHNOM PENH — Nine months after the Paris peace accords were signed, peace still eludes Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge have used the past nine months to try to extend their control through military advances and guerilla penetration of many parts of the country.
The Khmer Rouge are refusing to participate in Phase 2 of the peace process — the demobilisation of 70% of each party's military forces under UN supervision. The refusal is consistent: the Khmer Rouge have so far failed to carry out a single concession implied or stated in the agreements.
They have continued to exercise authoritarian power in the refugee camps and zones under their control; they have refused access by UNTAC (UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia) to these areas; they have participated sporadically and inconsistently, and largely to block decisions, in the bodies set up by UNTAC and the Supreme National Council; they have failed to give lists, let alone release political and war prisoners; they have fired on UNTAC helicopters; and they have continued to deny civil and political rights of Cambodians where they are able to penetrate the rest of the country not under their control.
The other three factions have complied with the accords, making numerous concessions, political and military.
In the first month of Phase Two's operations, government soldiers withdrew from many areas to the prescribed cantonments and handed over their weapons to UNTAC; the two other factions (KPNLF and FUNCINPEC) did likewise in their limited zones.
The Khmer Rouge refused to participate, and in fact used this month to make further grabs for territory. Finally, the UN secretary-general announced that the demobilisation should not proceed in areas where the Khmer Rouge are active, but how much did they gain in this latest manoeuvre?
The Khmer Rouge then (once again) promised to participate, but only if new conditions were met — verification of the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces, and dismantling of the State of Cambodia over a four-week period. Fortunately nobody appears to take seriously this outrageous proposal, which contradicts the Paris accord's decision to leave existing administrations in place until the elections.
A Security Council decision "deploring" the non-compliance of the Khmer Rouge was delivered to the SNC meeting on July 23. But the decision is pitifully weak, and there is no evidence that the UN is prepared to pursue the peace process among the three complying factions, ignoring or excluding the Khmer Rouge.
State of Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for the process to continue towards the holding of elections either with or without Khmer is would seem to be the only way forward, for not to do so would continue to allow them to veto the peace process. Even Prince Sihanouk, now president of the SNC, has stated he sees the Khmer Rouge's intention as undermining, rather than just delaying, the peace process.
Meanwhile, the UNTAC superstructure is relentlessly being constructed throughout the country at a cost of $US3 million per day. White cars, jeeps, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters are everywhere — hovering over Angkor Wat for the best sunset camera angle, charging down the main street of Phnom Penh or rolling along appallingly rough country roads.
The uniformed soldiers from around the world with their blue berets swagger all over. In many ways it's a real boys' own adventure: a big warlike operation without actual fighting, for the UN mandate does not include enforcement or peace-making.
In most of the country, the 80% or so controlled by the State of Cambodia, the economic situation has deteriorated markedly during these nine months. The huge influx of foreign currency has further distorted the economy, and the Cambodian currency (riel) is dropping daily.
Until recently, the Khmer Rouge blocked the delivery of any development assistance, complaining that it would give budgetary support to the government. Finally, at the SNC meeting on July 16, Sihanouk for the first time used his power to take a decision in the absence of consensus, to allow the acceptance of the aid package proposed by the UN at Tokyo in June.
Aside from humanitarian and emergency aid, nothing has been delivered to help the people. Teachers, health workers, government employees are still woefully paid, generally late, and have virtually no resources with which to work. The UN daily allowances (on top of salaries) are equivalent to an average annual wage of a Cambodian. Without peace and development for Cambodians, how can this superstructure be justified?