UN Troops Coax Khmer Rouge International Frustration Is Increasing as Cambodian Rebels Ignore Peace Accords

By Kenneth J. Stier, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 1992 | Go to article overview

UN Troops Coax Khmer Rouge International Frustration Is Increasing as Cambodian Rebels Ignore Peace Accords


Kenneth J. Stier, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


WHILE the United Nations Security Council tries to push the Khmer Rouge into compliance with an international peace plan, Dutch Marines assigned to disarm the radical Marxist faction along the Thai border in their largest stronghold are trying to build trust as a way of coaxing cooperation.

The Khmer Rouge has been violating the peace accord it signed in Paris last October, as seen in its capture this week of two Cambodian villages, and is now setting new conditions for its demobilization. But the Marines, who are acting as UN peacekeepers, have offered to investigate alleged violations by the other rebel factions, a political officer says. "We will try to have regular contact with {the Khmer Rouge} to slowly build up some trust," says another officer.

"I am confident that they will cooperate at some point; whether it is soon or not, I am not sure," says Capt. Gerrit Scheffers of the Marines' Charlie Company, which now monitors the faction's movements. Hearts and minds campaign

So far, the Khmer Rouge is not budging. Ignoring the schedule for demobilization, it demands that the UN verify the full withdrawal of Vietnamese troops and dismantle the administration left over from the Hun Sen government Vietnam installed. Until then, Khmer Rouge troops seek territorial gains, pursue their "hearts and minds" political campaign, and take potshots at UN helicopters.

The Khmer Rouge plays up anti-Vietnamese sentiments in the region, but UN observers have not found evidence of Vietnamese troops. Most of the several thousand Vietnamese settlers in this area predate by several decades the 1979 Vietnamese invasion.

The other rebel factions have also complained about Vietnamese troops and other aspects of UNTAC's implementation but, unlike the Khmer Rouge, they have complied with the peace accord.

Most international participants think the Khmer Rouge actions are a delaying tactic. The danger is that if the Khmer Rouge delays too long, it will sabotage the Paris accord, say officials of the UN Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC).

Observers say rupture is about two months away. By then the other factions will buck at having complied with the demobilization phase and may demand to remobilize. And in two months the rainy season will be in full force, compounding the challenge of implementing Phase III: elections by May 1993.

According to UNTAC officials, the Khmer Rouge has yet to meet Phase I conditions: It provided an inaccurate list of arms and troops, failed to release political prisoners, and has not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Khmer Rouge prisons. According to the agreement, demobilization should be finished by October when a voter registration drive will begin.

UNTAC took "direct control" of five key ministries in early July, including Public Security, National Defense, Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Information. This measure was meant to ensure the administration's neutrality in preparing for the elections, not to replace the administration, as the Khmer Rouge demands.

The faction's lack of compliance with the peace accord is reflected in its reluctant contact with peacekeepers. A small UN military observer team has been set up in the western city of Pailin, the so-called Khmer Rouge capital, but their movements have been severely restricted. And so far the Khmer Rouge has stiff-armed the Dutch Marines, allowing them to patrol nearby but forcing the Dutch to relocate their headquarters in Sisophon rather than in Pailin as planned. …

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