A Cambodian Peace Settlement: George Bush's Litmus Test in Asia

Report Asia

A Cambodian Peace Settlement: George Bush's Litmus Test in Asia

July 24, 1992 17 min read Download Report
William J. Bonde
Policy Analyst

(Archived document, may contain errors)

125 July U, IM


INT WDUCTION The Bush Administration last year played a major role in bringing together die four warring factions of Cambodia. These are: the present government now called the Suft of Cambodia (SoC), die Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPLNF), the Nar tional United Front for an Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCIPEC), and the Khmer Rouge. At America's initiative, these contestants for power in Cambodia, as well as eighteen cfher countries, signed the United Nations- sponsored Pans Agreement lot October. To Junplement the agreement, the United Na- tions Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established. The world organ- ization's largest operation to date, UNTAC's job is tD monitor Cam- bodia's progress toward democracy until elections are held in die spring of 1993. To back up UNTAC@ Washington agreed to contribute $516 million to its peacekeep- ing efforts, plus an additional $135 million for reconstruction. lapan, dw next largest, donor, will contribute $24.9 million. U.& Prestige. The United States has a sizeable finazicial stake in Cambodia, but more iinportant@ Washington has committed its Prestige in Asia to bringing peace to this troubled nation. With the immine nt departure of U.S. forces from the Philippines, and with traditionally close relations between America and Thailand stramed by the Bangkok government's bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in May, Washington's willingness to complete the Cambodian settlement is likely to be seen throughout Asia as the test of America's commitment to the region's future. However, with George Bush's attention focused increasingly on his reelection bid, Cambodia has dropped to near the bottom of the 'Iministration's ffimp policy prion- des. bne important result: Congress approved only 71 percent of die Bush Admin-

1 UnitedNatim Resoludw 718 in 1991, United Natims Rew1ution 745 in 1992.

istration's request for UNTAC fimding this year. Because America initially agreed to pay so large a portion of UNTAC's expenses, the 's failure to obtain ftal funding ftom Congress will have a serious impact this year on the most important phase of the peace process: disarmament of the four warring factions. The lack of money is not the only problem affecting Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge has failed to comply with the Paris Agreements and corruption is rampant in the Phnom Penh gov- ___ment. U.S. leadership can help weaken the Khmer Rouge if Washington continues to refuse granting the recognition this-ruthless faction seeks-until and unless it meets certain coddidong.1niese art sdipping-ft Khmer Rouge of its vicious leadership and Marxist ideology while forcing it to admit its criminal past and surrender its arms. By withholding financial assistance the U.S. can also limit corruption in the current Cam- bodian government. Unless the U.S. refocuses its attention on Cambodia, UNTAC win fall short of its goals, and Washington will have wasted its effort on another Indochina venture. Suspidous RivahL Ile Paris Agreements represent the most ambitious peacekeep- ing operation ever attempted by the U.N. Due to the bitter enmity among Cambodia's warring factions, however, then is a strong chance of failure ff the complete deploy- ment of the UNTAC peacekeeping mission is delayed. The FUNCIPEC, Khmer Rouge, KPLNF, and SoC span the ideological spectrum, each with its own agenda and military force, and each eyeing one another suspiciously. Limited fighting between SoC forces and the Khmer Rouge continues. The Khmer Rouge has prevented UNTAC observers fiom entenng its regional strongholds in Kwnpong Thom and Battambang provinces and is balking at disarming its military. At the same time, SoC police continue harassing the non-communist KPLNF party in Phnom Penh. 1lie U.N. admittedly is a flawed organintion, but no odw outside party has stepped forward to help resolve Cambodia's problems-nor will one. To ensure UNTAC's suc- cess in bringing peace to Cambodia and provide sufficient U.S. representation on UNTAC to reaffim America's role as an honest broker in keeping the peace in A the Bush Administration needs to reverse its inattention to Cambodia which resulted in Congress's failure to support U.S. commitments to U.N. peacekeeping efforts. Specif- ically, the Administration shou]d:-

Seek full funding from Congress for U.N. peacekeeping operations In CamWla.

Satisfy UNTAC!s request to Increase the number of U.S. military observers. in addition, to increase its influence and thus the chance of a successftd out- come to the settlement of Cambodia's civil war, the U.S. should increase the number of American personnel on the UNTAC staff.

Press UNTAC to alloWe financing from UNTACs budget for new democratic parties, and continue support of Cambodia's non-communist factions, the KPLNF and FUNCIPEC.

Refuse any contact between Administration officials and the Khmer Rouge until stringent conditions are met. X Insist 00 UNTAC monitor sWeewnsd property sales In Cambodia to nt SoC government oftials from stealing the proceeds.

Encourage fte market reforms In Cambodia by requiring that any International aid be given to private enterprises.


Shifting alliances have been the hallmark of PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC c 14 bodiaps recent. am politi- OF CHINA cal history. When France ended its colonial nfle in Cambodia in 1953, Prince Norodom Sihanouk be- came head of the govern- MYANMAR ment. After the Vietnam War broke out, Sihanouk adopted a foreign policy THAILAND that tried to pleam both Ba the U.S. and North Viet- Fftm PSM nam. In the early 1960s Sihanouk began to lean in- DI lasa 0 creasingly to the lefL He renounced U.S. economic and military aid in 1964 and severed all relations with the U.S. a year later. ---- - --------- The North Vietnamese U.N.-Brokered Peace Talks for Cambodia: took advantage of this de- Ending Two Decades of Tyranny and War? velopment by marshalling more than 50,000 troops PMG0Mq;_=M 500 MR" inside Cambodia. I I In 1970, Cambodia's Prime Minister, General. Lon Nol, replaced the prince as chief of state after Sihanouk had been unanimously voted out of power by the National As- sembly. Lon Nol's U.S.-supported reign lasted until 1975, when he was overthrown by Pol Pot, leader of the communist Khmer Rouge, who immediately set about murdering over one million Cambodians in an attempt to create a utopian peasant society. The Khmer Rouge hold power until December 1978, when Vietnam invaded Cambo- dia, changed its name to the People's Republic of Kampuchea M), and installed two ex-Khmer Rouge commanders, Heng Samrin and Hun Sen, as president and for- eign minister respectively. The Khmer Rouge, backed by China, returned to the jungles and has, since 1979, continued an effective guerrilla warfare campaign against the Phnom Penh government and its Vietnamese backers.


Item an four Cambodian factions in the U.N. talks. They an: FACTION #1: The National United Front for an Indeprident, Neutral, Pomful, and Cooperdive Cambodia (FUNCIPEC). Priwe Sihanouk formed this anti-communist group in 1981 to advance Ins political ambitions. Over the years, the-prince has shifted alliances and formed coalitions to re- main a key player in Cambodia. Today, this pattern persists. Content with chairing the Supreme National Council until next year's elections, the prince has distanced himself from his FUNCWEC supporters. His son, Prince Ranariddh, has stopped in to head FUNCDEC-and.iepresents-theTartyon *e-SNC.-As-a. result of this maneuvering, Sihanouk has increased his influence in Cambodia's pro-election politics, preserving the option to embrace either FUNCIPEC or any other faction that develops popular support. FACTION #2: The Khmer PeopWs National Liberation Front (KPLNF).

Owing to its lack of financial resources and political in-fighting, this faction is con- sideud the weakest of the four. Strongly anti-communist and pro-U.S., the KPLNF is Cal linLr for an end to the widespread corruption in the Phnom Penh government. This is &9 an extremely popular theme among the peasants and merchants, who are powerless to prevent ministry officials from looting sm property. The KPLNF's longtime political leader, Son Sann, publishes a popular independent newsletter that reaches an enthusias- tic audience, but his supporters' political force is diminished by internal divisions within the faction's own ranks.

FACTION #3: The State of Cambodia (SoC).

Formerly the People's Republic of Kampuchea, the current government of Cambo- dia, which is an independent negotiator in the talks, was placed in power by Vietnam after its 1978 invasion. Fourteen years later, the SoC remains devoted to its communist ideology and dedicated to staying in power. Led by Hun Son, the SoC is likely to do well in the urban areas during 1993 elections, mostly by purchasing votes with illicitly gained funds. Government officials, for example, now are seizing state-owned build- ings in Phonm Penh and leasing them to UNTAC officials or foreign businessmen at inflated prices; the profits go straight to the officials' private bank accounts. These illicit monies are a major source of Hun Sen's strength. FACTION #4: The Khmer Rouge.

The biggest threat to peace today, the hard-line communist Khmer Rouge, controls most of Cambodia's rural areas. Although the Khmer Rouge terrorized Cambodia and murdered over one million of its own people from 1975 to 1978, the leaders of the three other Cambodian factions stipulated that the Khmer Rouge be involved in the peace process. Prince Sihanouk stated in 1990 that "only on the day the Khmer Rouge joins" will the Supreme National Council symbolize sovereignty in Cathbodia.2 Sihanouk's statement articulated what the three other factions believe, although it is not accepted in many West- ern countries: The Khmer THAILAND LAOS Rouge is a necessary part of a peacefid solution in Cam- bodia. GdAIr The Khmer Rouge's lead- My W01- Sbam TM8 ers control rural strongholds ..... % in Kompong Thorn, Battambang, and Koh Kong M0,1ALW as well as numer- WOW= ous isolated refugee and mil- ... * . . .... %% P itary camps. along-the Thai- % Cambodian Phnom P border. no Khmer Rouge recruits .1 % P % rdw troops in these areas for its Vow 101C 15,OOD-18,000 man military f 0 uvon force, the second largest in Cambodia after the SoC. Sur Mov The Khmer Rouge has abandoned for now ft sm- Cambodia's Provincial Boundaries egy of using military force to return to power. Its goal today supposedly is to win 200 mIles the allegiance of Cambodia's peasants through political and social means. In a 1988 address to the Dem- ocratic Kampuchea Women's Association, a Khmer Rouge front organization, Pol Ax, who remains the most important Khmer Rouge chieftain, said that "the essence of our propaganda work [is] in the village ... in the days to come, it will be necessary for the. majority of our ranks to stick right with the people, stick right in the villages, and know how to build up popular strength, maintain a grip on popula strength, and dis- perse ourselves everywhere "ghout the entire country to got a grip on thousands of villages and millions of people.' This policy is not an original one. It is the peaceful half of the classic tactics of an insurgency: feed the hungry, heal the sick, and supply such other genuine needs as police protection. In contrast to these seemingly benevolent gestures, however, is the Khmer Rouge's treatment of refugees under its control. The Khmer Rouge administers nearly a down camps that house over 70,000 refugees created by a decade of war. Seeking to enlarge its voting strength in the countryside, the Khmer Rouge has tried to relocate refugees frorn camps along the Thailand border to the Battambang and Koh Kong provinces that form the core of the Khmer Rouge strongholds. These areas are Uttered with thou- sands of land mines, infested with malaria, and beset by hunger. The Khmer Rouge's

2 Chwies Smith, -Disappoin&g Debut,- Far Eastern Econondc ReWew, June 14,1990, p. 12. 3 Christophe Peschoux, The New Khnwr Rouge, a 1991 study by French Sm Secretary for Humaniurisn Action. desire to move rehipes into these miserable arm belies its leadership's populist senti- ments and their efforts to establish international respectability. So does die Khmer Rouge's failure this June to comply with Phase Two of the Paris Agreements, which would disarm 70 percent of each faction's military@ To date, the Khmer Rouge has refused to allow its troops to lay down thew weapons and move to UNTAC-controlled cantonment camps. Notwithstanding these sips of a dangerous, ruthless faction in their midst, Cambo- dians, from-Prince-Sibanouk, to?rime-Minister Hun*Sen,believe that any attempt to re- construct their nation without Khmer Rouge involvement will not bring lasting peace and could bring worse. 1"hey believe that if the Khmer Rouge walks away from the Paris agreements, then Cambodia comes me stop closer to returning to long-term con- flict and possibly the "killing fields."


The U.N.'s ability to act as an e5ective force for peace will be tested in Cambodia. UNTAC is die U.N.'s largest such undertaking in its history. Headed by a Japanese U.N. official, Yasushi AkashL UNTAC will require approximately 26,000 admini tive and logistical yersonnel, including 16,000 multinational troops to implement the Paris Agreements. UNTAC plans to conduct a wide range of unprecedented functions. For the first time, a U.N. coalition will act as the primary administrator of a sovereign nation state. UNTAC will have authority over the twelve-member Cambodian SNC and direct con- trol over the country's five top ministries: defense, foreign affairs, information, fi- nance, and public security. In addition, UNTAC will organize and oversee the national elections scheduled for May 1993 and clear die countryside of thousands of landmines. The estimated price tag for these services is $1.7 bilfion@ Another $900 million is re, quired for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to repatri- ate 370,000 reffigees who are now living in reffigee camps along the Thailand and Cambodia border and for initial efforts to reconstruct die war-torn land. In sum, Cambodia's transition to peace and towards a fledgling democracy will cost $2.6 bil- lion, making it the U.N's most expensive peacekeeping operation to date. The U.S. has agreed to pay 30 percent of UNTAC's $1.7 billion share or $516 million. Washington is not obligated to contribute to the $900 million U.N. refugee fund. While UNTAC is expensive, particularly for the U.S., failure in Cambodia would cost more: a likely return to wholesale violence in a region whose economic success re- mains a beacon for the rest of the world.

4 William BreAgi, 'Kinner Rouge Balics, Halts Peace Process.- The Washington Post, June 13. IM, p. A15. 5 Jane's Defence Weekly, March 21,199Z p. 461. 6 Unned Nanous Report of die Secretary Gaterd, Fmancing of the UN"C and UNTAC, A/46/903, May 7. IM. Pressum on Washingtort. A U.N. failure to bring peace to Cambodia is likely as well to increase long-term pressure for America to become involved in squabbles around the world where its emomic, military, and diplomatic interests are affected only marginally. As is demonstrated by the pressureWashington feels to address Yugoslavia's intmud bloodbath, several months of media-communicated. brutality against an unarmed civilian population cannot simply be, overlooked. The U.S. could avoid deep entanglement in Cambodia by using the U.N. as the leading instrument to help keep the-peace. Ile U.N. is nopariacea, indeed its record of solving international dilemmas is poor. But the only, alternatives w ILT.N. -efforts, today are anarchy or the in- tercession of a major military power. IMe U.S. has no interest in filling such a role. Cambodia is a clear test of Washington's ability to make good on a commitment it made to -a-UX;-brokered:effort to settle -a-regional conflict. The murderous legacy of this conflict traces back to the 1970s and is precisely the kind of gruesome spectacle which civilized nations an not likely to stand by and see repeated. Washington can both carry out its duty as a civilized nation and advance its influence in Asia by sup- porting the U.N.'s peacekeeping efforts in Cambodia.


George Bush's administration must tan a small part of its attention away from Eu- rope and its efforts to solve the Middle East's ancient enmities. The 93 concentration on these areas has diluted its focus on Asia in genernal and specifically on the effort to resolve Cambodia's civil strife, which has been side-fined and thwarted by congressional inaction. Although the U.S. is paying over half a billion dollars for UNTAC, it is vastly un- deirepusented in die administration of the organization. The U.S has only two Ameri- cam on the UNTAC staff and dam military observers attached to the military coin- mand. The U.S. requires a strong voice in UNTAC. Without an increased American presence on UNTAC, the U.S. stands to low control of how its money is spent, what tasks U.S. military personnel are to be given, and how to direct die needed democratic reforms. Strong U.S. support is needed also to fu= America's promises, remind friends in Asia of Washington's continued commitment to the region's tranquillity, and ensure the success of the multinational UNTAC force. A modest increase in U.S. participation now will boost American credibility in Asia and, in turn, will solidify Southeast Asia as a base for American economic interests. To honor its cotnmitments, ensure U.N. success in ending Cambodia's civil strife, and increase American influence in Asia by taking an active role in the Cambodian set- tlement, the Bush Administration should:

Seek full funding from Congress for U.N. peacekeeping operations In Cambodia.

The Bush Administration should press Congress to fulfill the U.S. promise and ap- prove the U.N.'s 1993 peacekeeping request for $350 million, in which over $250 mil- lion is earmarked for UNTAC. However, funding should be released only as UNTAC objectives are met. These include the total deployment of U.N. peacekeeping force in Cambodia, disarming of the four factions, repatriation of 350,000 refugees, and demo- cratic elections to be held in 1993. The State Department should continue to monitor the progress toward peace in Cambodia and recommend to theWhite House and Con- gress a freeze on payments if die Pads Agreements collapse.

Increm the number of UA military observers and civilian personnel on the LINTAC doff.

-on-thoUnitedWadons-Security-Council-the U.S., Britain, China, France, and Russia- traditionally do not send personnel to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Nevertheless, France has pledged 1,500 troops, police, and administrators; China has sent a 400-man construction battalion to Cambodia. Though ft U.S. is footing the largest portion of UNTAC's'bill,'$516 millim to date, it is repre- sented by only five people. Three are unarmed military observers. This number should be increased to 47, the number requested by UNTAC. Similarly, diem are only two Americans on the UNTACadministradve staff. The number of Americans on the UNTAC staff should be increased to a minimum of twenty. Proper U.S. representation on UNTAC will protect American interests, demonstrate Washington's commitment to Southeast Asia, and provide valuable experience to U.S. personnel in the region.

Increw support of CambodWs non-communist lactions, the KPLMF and FUNCIPEC, and allocate financing from UWAV9 budget for row democratic partles.

UNTAC's chief, Yasushi Akashi, has asked the international community for $111.8 million in voluntary contributions to ensure the stability of Cambodia's current govem- ment. Regrettably, these funds also will help to prop up a corrupt and unrepresentative faction in the peace process, the State of Cambodia. The U.S. should use increased rep- resentation at UNTAC to ensure that one-fourth of the funds Akashi has requested, or $27.9 million, be given to the two anti-communist factions, KPLNF and FUNCIPEC. They represent a be= future for Cambodia than either the corruption of the SoC or the dangerous fanaticism of the Khmer Rouge. The U.S. should also car"y examine its own direct contributions to Cambodia. Section 559 of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Operations, Export Financ- ing, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill, 1993, earmarks $10 million for admin- istrative support of the corrupt and Vietnamese-backed SoC regime. Instead, this money should be earmarked for KPLNF and FUNCIPEC. Otherwise, it should be stricken from the bill. Cambodia's progress towards democracy and human rights can be assisted by fund- ing private newspapers, covering sun-up administration costs for new political parties, and increasing air time of the KPLNF's radio station, the Voice of Khmer. UNTAC has over $52 million budgeted for public information and training programs. The Bush Administration should use its influence to see that this money and funding from such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy, a bipartisan U.S. program for assisting democracies around the globe, is allocated to finance private media ven- tures and the administrative costs of Cambodia's pro-democratic parties. Initial U.S. backing of Cambodia's fledgling democratic parties will spawn now democratic par- ties and form closer ties between them and with America.

Refuse to begin direct talks with the Khmer Rouge until strIct conditions have been met.

Washington has forbidden U.S. officials from nearly all forms of direct contact with members of the Khmer Rouge. 17he US. special representative to the SNC@ Charles Twining-Jr. line-is-thavwe-will notdeal in. anyway with the Khmer it;u,@. 0 This policy, the result of the Khmer Rouge's genocide in the 1970st is understandable. America rightly has avoided direct contact with a group that in the past has proven to be genocidal and untrustworthy. However, Pol Pot's strength lies in the countryside where he can restrict his followers' access to outside influences and bombard them with Khmer Rouge Wool- ogy. A 15,000- 18,000 strong military and tens of thousands of civilians under their control enables the Khmer Rouge leaders to abandon the agreements they signed in Paris and cut off the prospect of peace. U.S. contact with the Khmer Rouge would assist them in gaining greater interna- tional recognition. Ilerefore, the U.S. should consider a dialogue with the Khmer Rouge only after stringent conditions am met. Adherence to strict enough conditions would help hasten the unraveling of the Khmer Rouge. IU resulting, increased expo- sure of lower level Khmer Rouge memben and civilians under their control to such outside, democratic influences as can be brought to bear by the U.S. and other inter- ested nations could ease the Khmer Rougo's vise-like grip on the knowledge its follow- ers possess of the outside world and erode their all-important power base. Conditions for direct U.S. contacts should be that the Khmer Rouge:

admit their crimes against the people of Cambodia;

Install row leadership to replace the old guard which us responsible for the slaughter of the 19709;

disavow their Marxist Ideology;

surrender their arms to UNTAC.

Insist that UNTAC monitor state-owned property sales In Cambodia.

To curb widespread corruption by the SoC, UNTAC should charge its newly estab- fished Register of Public Assets office with the responsibility to include sales of state- owned property. This office, in addition to registering all state-owned property, would monitor property sales and ensure that money earned through such sales is deposited in the Cambodian treasury and not in the pockets of corrupt officials.

7 Phflip Sbenon, -U.S. Wm= Wa= of Return by Kbzna Rouge," The New YorMmes, November 14,1991, p. A3. Encourage UNTAC to InstRute free mwW reforms In Cambodia.

UNTAC has yet to de-socialize Cambodia's centrally run economy. Everything- ftom the media to telecommunications to agriculture-is in die state's hands. ne U.S. should insist that UNTAC move quickly to end the government's monopolies and adopt a ftee market system. To smooth the transition fiom socialism, do U.S. should urge UNTAC to send -Cambodia!s bankers and.busin toexperience the workings of the U.S. and ASEAN economies. Finally, the U.S. use its influence with UNTAC to guarantee that all forms of international assistance are channelled into emerging pri- vate enterprises mther than into die government There is no sense in disestablishing a statist economy-only--toTeplace it-witbr-a welfare-dependency beholden to international creditors.


Southeast Asia's industrious peoples have turned their region into one of the, fastest growing corners of the earth. Situated at its center is Cambodia, in which factions sup- ported by communist China and Vietnam still strive, and ftorn which instability is still capable of being =smitted. Communist ideology has relaxed its hold the world over. But the Marxist-Leninist belief that any means justify its now-discredited aims contin- ues to exert a powerfid influence over such groups as die Khmer Rouge, whose capac- ity for wholesale slaughter is proven. Chance for Peace. The United Nations' ability to bring the Khmer Rouge and its ri- vals to a peaceful resolution of their dispute depends upon U.S. participation. To main- tain and increase its influence in Asia as a keepa of the peace, George Bush's adminis- tration must redouble its efforts to ensure the successful outcome of the world organization's effmt It should seek full flunding ftom Congress for U.S. peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, increase die number of U.S. personnel there, support the non- communist factions more vigorously, and encoumge that die U.N. use aid as a means to stimulate market reform. Direct U.S. contacts wit the ruthless Khmer Rouge should not be made until cartain conditions are met. Among them are the Khmer Rouge's disavowal of its present lead- ership and genocidal past. -There is a chance for peace in Cambodia, even though now it seems to be ftagile. The key to peace is greater U.S. involvement. With it@ the U.N. talks could get a new lease on life. This would benefit not only the long-suffering Cambodian people, but the U.S. as well. William L Bonde Policy Analyst


William J. Bonde

Policy Analyst