Jump-Start for Cambodia the US Could Accelerate Progress toward Peace by Lifting Its Embargo on Humanitarian and Developmental Aid

Article excerpt

ALL four factions at the core of the Cambodian conflict have joined hands in a shaky cease-fire until the Supreme National Council meeting scheduled for this month. The basic problem is a political deadlock between Cambodia's two most powerful factions - the State of Cambodia's de facto government, communist but reformist, and the radically Maoist Khmer Rouge guerrillas - over details of the United Nations peace plan.

Meanwhile, in the field the number of refugees on the ThaiCambodian border has climbed to more than 380,000, and more than 180,000 civilians within Cambodia have been displaced. The current political "red-lock" threatens the momentum of the Cambodian peace process.

The flurry of diplomatic activity following the optimistic internationalization of the Cambodian peace process in August 1989 produced the UN Security Council's framework for a political settlement in Resolution 688. This "Perm-5" plan will create a UN peacekeeping operation, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which will neutralize the volatile military environment, supervise five key government ministries, and prepare Cambodians for the first free elections in Khmer history. During this transition period, the Supreme National Council will enshrine the national sovereignty of Cambodia and hold Cambodia's seat at the UN. Factional disputes within the council have caused the present impasse.

The Cambodian peace process needs a jump-start. This could be done simultaneously from two angles: external and internal.

First, the internal problem. Military machinery within Cambodia must be effectively neutralized and international guarantees of peace must be strengthened. The UN's Perm-5 framework unwittingly favors the Khmer Rouge over the State of Cambodia (SOC) forces. Although soldiers from all four Khmer factions will be held in cantonment under UN guard, the very nature of the guerrilla group gives it the unfair advantage of invisibility.

While SOC troops are under keen international eye, Khmer Rouge rank and file will melt unseen by the UN into the Cambodian populace and further entrench a culture of fear and coercion. While the SOC military would be meticulously dismantled, the Khmer Rouge would be "neutralized" by UN blue helmets checking surrendered weapons against lists provided by the Khmer Rouge themselves. Such a system, dependent on Khmer Rouge honesty, invites deception.

Authentic international guarantees by UN Security Council members are essential. Khmer civilians must be assured that the Khmer Rouge will not return to undermine a newly elected government. Current draft guarantees are vague and noncommittal.

CHANGES in the external environment are equally important. Here the US can make a vital contribution by lifting the embargo against humanitarian aid to Cambodia. …