Magazine article New Internationalist

Cambodia's Been Done: Ten Million Land Mines Still in Place, the Khmer Rouge Armed to the Teeth, Increasing Their Territory, and the US Calls It a Peace Process?

Magazine article New Internationalist

Cambodia's Been Done: Ten Million Land Mines Still in Place, the Khmer Rouge Armed to the Teeth, Increasing Their Territory, and the US Calls It a Peace Process?

Article excerpt

RECENTLY a talented photographer friend spent much time and energy trying to sell some of his work on Cambodia. Virtually all the papers and magazines he approached told him: 'Sorry, Cambodia has been done'. No one took his work.

I presume they meant that after 20 years of war, genocide, invasion and starvation, there is peace at last. The basis for their optimism: the signing of the Peace Accords in Paris on October 1991 under the auspices of the United Nations.

But there is a different story that needs to be told. In the year since the peace was signed more land mines have been laid in Cambodia than taken out, and there has been as much armed conflict as during any of the war years of the 1980s.

So why all this myth - making -- by the UN and others? Cambodia has no oil; it is of little strategic importance. Perhaps the answer is that most of Cambodia's ills have their roots in foreign interference over decades, centuries even.

The international community wants a solution and it's pinning its hopes on the election of an acceptable new Cambodian government in May 1993. Thereafter the UN can politically wash its hands of the subject and leave Cambodians to work out their own destinies.

Therein lies the danger -- and the cynicism. The host of ugly legacies left by the foreign intervention of the past few years is being ignored. The most obvious of these is the now UN - recognized, reconstructed Khmer Rouge organization. Responsible for the deaths of nearly one million Cambodian civilians from 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge is now part of the peace process. The gamble of the Paris Accord was that peace with this organization was possible -- leaving aside the whole issue of whether it was desirable. It is now plain that the gamble has failed. And Cambodians will be the losers.

Already the Khmer Rouge have committed around 15 major breaches of the Peace Accord. In Spring 1992 they broke the ceasefire by launching a major attack in the province of Kompong Thom which produced thousands of refugees. More recently they blew up two key bridges on National Route 6, cutting off two major provinces. The upshot is the Khmer Rouge now control twice as much of Cambodia as they did this time last year. Furthermore they have broken the Paris Accord by refusing to demobilize their troops or to give information about land mines they have planted. Nor have they co - operated with the UN's Transitional Authority in Cambodia or allowed the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to work effectively in Khmer Rouge zones. Peace keepers, human - rights monitors, civil administrators and electoral officials have come across similar obstacles. Clearly Pol Pot is not playing the game.

In response the UN has passed a series of increasingly stiffly - worded resolutions. …

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