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Rethinking Cambodia

CAMBODIA needs better help than it is getting. The failure in Jakarta last week in the latest round of negotiations to end Cambodia's civil war shows clearly that the currently prescribed peace formula just isn't working. The basic flaw is the effort to inject the Khmer Rouge into a government coalition. Their history of genocide against their own people can't be explained away by any political formula. And they deny their own history. The outside parties, including the United States, China, the United Nations, and now Australia, are probably not looking closely enough at either the history of Cambodia or at what has evolved politically inside this land.

The need is to get to elections in a peaceful way as soon as possible. Why can't the international community live with the Hun Sen government until Cambodian voters can choose their own government? No one succeeded in pushing the contras into a coalition with the Sandinistas before the Nicaraguan election.

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Call Jimmy Carter into Cambodia now, if he's willing. And stop all support of the Khmer Rouge.

The murder of more than a million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979 remains the country's central political fact. Those murders were so brutal that they entered the literature and conscience of all caring peoples. The ideology behind the killings was fascist - an imagined cleansing of the Cambodian people by eliminating all ``foreign'' influence.

What is incredible, defying all moral logic, is that the US and the UN both not only permitted the rebuilding of the Khmer Rouge after their defeat by the Vietnamese, but aided it financially.

The Khmer Rouge want to enter a coalition government along with Prince Norodom Sihanouk. But in all honesty, do the Cambodian people want their former monarch, known for his tendency to change political colors as the need arises, back in power again? At the least, it's doubtful.

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