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
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
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. …