Prince Norodom Sihanouk
Prince Norodom Sihanouk; drawing by David Levine


The subject of David Chandler’s excellent and absorbing biography is, one may suppose, even now, in his secret headquarters in western Cambodia or in the carefully guarded house provided him by the Thai military inside Thailand, contemplating how the Khmer Rouge should now react to its disastrous defeat in the remarkable Cambodian election that took place in May under UN supervision. Until the very last moment before the elections began, the Khmer Rouge were widely expected to disrupt the polling and punish whoever voted. In some provinces people were warned that “to vote is to commit suicide.” Elsewhere they were threatened that they would find their houses burned down when they returned from the polls. At the same time, the former members of the Khmer Rouge who controlled the Hun Sen regime in Phnom Penh were warning the population that they had to vote—and vote for them. Throughout the country they ordered peasants to go to the polling stations, and often took them there in trucks. They were confident that they would win.

The Cambodian people kept their counsel, and went to the polls in their best clothes. As they waited patiently in line, they seemed to me and to others visibly pleased at the chance to express their views in a secret ballot. (I was there as an observer on behalf of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.) Altogether, almost 90 percent of the people who had been registered by the UN during the preceding weeks came to vote; in some provinces the turnout was 97 percent.

A writer in Phnom Penh’s excellent English-language paper, the Phnom Penh Post, called the election Cambodia’s St. Crispin’s Day. Certainly it was one of the most moving events I have ever witnessed. And then the amazing results emerged. The counting took a week, and the United Nations announced new totals each day. As the announcements went on, it became clear that something extraordinary had happened. In spite or perhaps because of the Hun Sen regime’s powerful and often brutal apparatus of control—its secret police and its ability to dispense patronage—people had voted against it, defying not only the Khmer Rouge in the jungle but also the former Khmer Rouge members who ran the government.

The first time Cambodians had ever been given a free choice, they had taken the opportunity to vote for the royalist opposition party, Funcinpec. Funcinpec, which is headed by Prince Rannarith, the son of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, had offered a very different platform—reconciliation with the Khmer Rouge—from the continued war proposed by the Hun Sen regime. And, of course, the people were voting for Sihanouk. For all his failings, which David Chandler documents here and in other books, Sihanouk is still widely seen as he sees himself—as the patriotic “father” of the Cambodian nation.

In the end Funcinpec won 45 percent of the vote and Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) only 38 percent. The Buddhist Liberal Democrats (BLDP) allied to Funcinpec won 3.8 percent. In provinces like Kompong Cham, which is run by Hun Sen’s brother and where the government’s police and soldiers had been most violently oppressive, the rejection was even clearer. In the Assembly Funcinpec won fifty-eight seats and the CPP fifty-one; the BLDP has ten, and a smaller party, Moulinaka, just one.

The Khmer Rouge, the regime itself, and almost every diplomatic mission except that of the United States had expected the Hun Sen government to win. Indeed, some thought that the Paris Peace Agreement of October 1991, under which the elections were being held, was really a complex device to give legitimacy to the regime, which has held power since it was installed by Vietnam in January 1979. Some internal memos by UN officials written before the election actually referred to a loss by the government as “the worst-case scenario.”

In fact the result was a triumph for ordinary Cambodians. The country now has its best chance of peace since 1970, when it descended into a series of catastrophes: civil war fostered by Vietnam and the US, an appalling revolution, and foreign occupation. The Khmers voted for a change of regime and for peace. The question now is whether their courage will in fact be rewarded with peace and a more tolerable society; in a country where politics has long been based on a brutally enforced, almost feudal privilege, that will not be easy. One of the hardest problems is how to deal with the Khmer Rouge. And that, in part, means knowing what to expect from Pol Pot, the enigmatic Communist who presided over the deaths of more than a million Cambodians. David Chandler, a former US diplomat in Phnom Penh, a distinguished scholar, and author of The Tragedy of Cambodian History, had an unenviable task in trying to discover his subject’s history and motives. His book is an important study: together with Elizabeth Becker’s When the War Was Over, it will now be indispensable to any attempt to understand the Khmer Rouge.1


Pol Pot has always been the most secretive of revolutionaries. Only in 1977, after two years of the Khmer Rouge’s disastrous revolution, was he identified by Western experts on Cambodia as Saloth Sar, a forty-nine-year-old former teacher, who had been secretary of the clandestine Communist Party of Kampuchea since 1963. Chandler describes how he built a Party apparatus that was loyal to him. But he was never a well-known public figure: as far as most Cambodians were concerned, the unspeakable and inexplicable violence inflicted on them after 1975 was carried out in the name of “Angkar” or “the organization,” not by particular leaders.

Since shortly after the Vietnamese overthrew his regime at the end of 1978 (a liberation which fast became a Vietnamese occupation), Pol Pot has remained concealed. With Chinese and Thai support, and tacit Western acquiescence, he has led the resistance to the Vietnamese and to the Vietnam-backed government of Hun Sen from hideouts along the Thai border and from within Thailand, where the venal Thai military has provided him with support and assistance. It does not help to understand him, Chandler points out, merely to call him a “moon-faced monster,” a “genocidal maniac,” or “the Asian Hitler,” the latter a title given him by journalists in 1979. If such phrases are to be used, “Asian Stalin” or “Southeast Asian Mao” would have been more appropriate than “Asian Hitler.” It was Communist ideology, grafted onto fanatical nationalism, that created the Khmer Rouge.

Chandler was able to interview some relatives and close associates of Pol Pot, and he has skillfully used such documentary evidence as is available. One problem for all historians of the Khmer Rouge is that the Vietnamese appear to have removed most documents from Phnom Penh after their 1978 invasion. The principal sources which they left behind were the gruesome and revealing confessions extracted under torture from Party officials in the prison at Tuol Sleng, of which Chandler makes good use. Another problem for the biographer was that almost everyone who actually knew Pol Pot spoke warmly of his qualities of friendship, honesty, even “saintliness.” It was impossible, Chandler writes,

to discover a rougher, more diabolical, supposedly more genuine Pol Pot. The man seems to suit his performance to the people he is with, making a “genocidal maniac” hard to find. Indeed, the disjunction between his genteel charisma and the death toll of his regime is one of the mysteries that hangs over his career and poses serious difficulties in trying to make sense of his life.

Trying to explain the evil that Pol Pot has done must have been a frustrating as well as depressing task for Chandler. Often during his research, he writes, “I had the uneasy feeling that Saloth Sar/Pol Pot was just outside my line of vision observing me.”

Saloth Sar was born in either 1925 or 1928 in Kompong Thom, about ninety miles north of Phnom Penh; his father was a prosperous farmer with connections to the royal palace, and Sar spent some of his childhood on the fringes of the court, where his cousin was a member of the royal ballet. He was far from a gifted student, but in 1949 he was among the first hundred men and women sent to France on government scholarships.

He and many of his peers thus became Communists at a time when, in Cambodia, the Communist-controlled resistance confronted the French and when, in France, the Communist Party was the most Stalinist outside Eastern Europe. “To many young Khmer and millions of young people in France,” Chandler writes, “communism seemed to be the wave of the future.” Saloth Sar and other young Cambodian leftists formed some of their closest friendships in Paris. Chandler writes that although Pol Pot was introspective and nationalistic, France was the first of the foreign influences to shape his ideas and career.

During most of Saloth Sar’s life Cambodian politics has been dominated by Prince Sihanouk, except when the Khmer Rouge tried to eliminate his influence and the Vietnamese tried to ignore it. In 1955, Sihanouk, then the master politician who had helped gain independence from the French, made a remarkable prediction of what would happen if the Communists ever came to power in Cambodia.

There will be no happiness. Everyone will work for the government. No one will ride cars or cyclos, or wear nice clothes: everyone will wear black, exactly alike. There would be no delicious food to eat. If you ate more than allowed, the government would learn about it from your children in secret and you would be taken out and shot.

While working as a teacher in a school near Phnom Penh, Saloth Sar rose in the secret Party hierarchy. In the mid-Sixties, as the Vietnam war began to impinge on Cambodia and as Sihanouk’s regime became more arbitrary, autocratic, economically inefficient, and corrupt, hundreds of Cambodian leftists and Communists left Phnom Pen for the jungle camps of the maquis. In 1963 Saloth Sar had gone to prepare the ground for them. He seems to have done so alone, not with any, group of close comrades. From then on, as Chandler notes ruefully, his personality “became even more inaccessible and his life story more difficult to write.”


Chandler also notes that “after 1963 Sar and his friends met few nonbelievers. They talked continuously to each other, bonding together and reinforcing their paranoia and their self-assurance.” The two great influences on Saloth Sar and the Cambodian Communists were the Communist governments in China and Vietnam. The Hanoi leaders gave weapons and other help to the Khmer Communists, and their troops occupied large parts of Cambodia during the Vietnam war; but the traditional mutual distrust and fear between the two countries came to dominate their relations. In 1966 Sar visited China in the early days of the Cultural Revolution. Some Maoist methods, like partial evacuation of the cities, “storming attacks” on economic problems, and purges of “class enemies” were later adapted by the victorious Khmer Rouge. But, Chandler notes, “It is uncertain if Sar ever learned that the Cultural Revolution was a disaster.”

The turning point for the tiny group of Khmer Rouge maquisards came in March 1970, when Sihanouk, who had tried to keep most of his country out of the shooting as the Vietnam war spread into Cambodia in the late 1960s, was overthrown in a right-wing coup d’état. He petulantly threw in his lot with the Communists and agreed to lead an anti-American United Front against the army officers who had displaced him. This was a fateful, indeed fatal, decision, for it meant that the leader of Cambodian nationalism was now allied with the Khmer Rouge. For the next five years Cambodia was drawn into the inferno of war, partly as a result of careless White House policies, including the destruction of Cambodian villages by heavy bombing. The Khmer Rouge, which had perhaps 3,000 members in 1970, soon grew to some 30,000. With support from China they eventually became strong enough to separate themselves from Hanoi and even to defy it. In 1975 they captured and then emptied Phnom Penh, and began their autarchic revolution, a mad attempt to assert total control of Cambodia and total independence not only from Vietnam but also from the rest of the world.

By forcing the city population into the countryside, rejecting modern technology, Pol Pot and the top Khmer Rouge leaders caused the country’s economy to collapse around them. They became more and more paranoid and sought to pin the blame within their own ranks. In one 1976 speech to the Party, Saloth Sar talked, Chandler writes, of the “microbes” inside the Party which must be destroyed by Socialist revolution. Vicious purges began; documents later found at Tuol Sleng, the Party’s prison, showed that the torture of thousands was directed particularly at finding Vietnamese agents in the apparat. To most Cambodians the violence was incomprehensible. The refugees I talked to on the Thai border at the end of 1975 for an article in The New York Review2 made it clear they had escaped from a country that was becoming a death camp. I wrote that the “Khmer people are suffering horribly under their new rulers” but I regret that my article did not adequately reflect the enormity of the crimes being committed in Cambodia. It seemed to me then, and still seems to me today, that those of us who were opposed to the American effort in Indochina should be humbled by the scale of the suffering inflicted by the Communist victors—especially in Cambodia but in Vietnam and Laos as well.

By 1977, the Khmer Rouge had begun to attack across the border into Vietnamese territory they claimed as part of Cambodia. At the end of 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and installed in power a client regime controlled by Heng Samrin, Hun Sen, and other defectors from the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and the remains of his government fled to the Thai-Cambodian border. There, together with Sihanouk’s Funcinpec and the relatively small Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF), they have since had support from China and the countries hostile to Vietnam among the ASEAN nations. Pol Pot has not been seen in public since 1979, but he and his lieutenants were skillful in using the rebuilt Khmer Rouge army to control the Thai border region, including several refugee camps in Thailand itself. Some 180,000 Vietnamese troops in Cambodia were unable to defeat them. In 1989 Vietnam withdrew its army.

In October 1991, after years of fighting between the Khmer Rouge, the KPNLF, Sihanouk’s army, and Hun Sen’s forces, the Paris Peace Agreement was signed by Hun Sen, Khieu Samphan representing the Khmer Rouge, Prince Sihanouk, and Son Sann, the leader of the KPNLF. It provided for a UN administration in Cambodia that was supposed to disarm and assign specific regions to factions, while preparing for national elections for a Constituent Assembly.

The inclusion of the Khmer Rouge provoked understandable criticism; but no agreement would have been possible without them, not only because of their military power but because of their international backers. Cambodia’s problems have always been partly international—throughout its history it has been prey to its large neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam. Any settlement had to have full international support. A principal purpose of the agreement was to detach the Khmer Rouge leaders from China, their main sponsor and arms supplier. It worked: the Chinese have apparently not shipped any more arms to them since then, but the Khmer Rouge already had stockpiles in Thailand. These are now said by UN officials in Phnom Penh to be exhausted.

However, the Khmer Rouge have since developed another source of supplies. They have been plundering the lands they control in western Cambodia, extracting timber and gemstones with some of the same ruthlessness that they used to impose communism in the Seventies. The income derived from sales of the timber and gemstones through Thailand is thought to be over $10 million a month. The ecological damage is vast. In eastern Cambodia and other parts of the country, officials of the Hun Sen regime have shown similar lack of concern for the country’s environment. They have pillaged the forests and sold the timber, through Vietnam, for large personal profits.

In 1992 the Khmer Rouge reneged on their commitments made in Paris, claiming, correctly, that the UN had failed to take charge of the administration in Phnom Penh as the Paris Agreement demanded and, falsely, that two million Vietnamese troops and settlers were in the country. They refused to restrain or disarm their troops, they closed their regions to the UN, and their attacks on villages steadily increased. In late 1992 the Khmer Rouge intensified an odious new policy of murdering ethnic Vietnamese residents of Cambodia, hoping that this would set off a nationwide pogrom against the Vietnamese. This did not happen, though hardly any senior Cambodian politicians condemned the killings. For its part, the Hun Sen regime stepped up its own program of intimidation and murder against its political opponents, particularly Funcinpec. About one hundred Funcinpec officials and supporters were killed or wounded by government agents during the months before the election. In such circumstances the UN might have canceled or delayed the election; instead they took the risk of going ahead with it—and a heavy risk it was.


If, on the early morning of May 23, a Khmer Rouge barrage rather than a thunderstorm had awakened us in Phnom Penh, there could have been carnage at the polls. But, for reasons that are still not yet entirely clear, the Khmer Rouge decided not to attack. Perhaps they suddenly realized that the Hun Sen regime might not win. Some analysts think they were simply too weak. Others also believe that the Thais and the Chinese impressed upon the Khmer Rouge that if they destroyed the UN’s $2 billion effort, the international outrage would be such that they would never again have any chance of taking part in Cambodian political life. Whatever the reasons, the important part is that the UN had faced down the threat of the Khmer Rouge. As a result, the UN was able to carry out an extremely successful election.

Other parts of the UN mandate were less successful. The UN civil police force, composed of policemen from several countries including Tunisia and Nigeria, was supposed to keep order in the towns and villages but it turned out to be widely incompetent. So were some battalions of the UN’s peace-keeping forces (though others performed well in improving public health and in other civil projects in villages) and many of the UN’s civil administrators. But they did an excellent job in registering voters and in running the election itself; and the UN’s Information Education Office and especially its Radio UNTAC managed to convince the Cambodians that their votes really would be secret. During the period of UN administration, many thousands of people became acquainted for the first time with the idea that they had human rights, which could actually be protected. A free press has been encouraged for the first time in Cambodian history.

UNTAC will also have a long-term effect on Cambodian scholarship. During the Seventies, when the Khmer Rouge came to power, Cambodian studies were an isolated and almost sectarian discipline in Western universities. Like many other scholars, Chandler found the horror stories about the Khmer Rouge impossible to credit; some of his colleagues propagandized for the Khmer Rouge. On the left it was at first fashionable to dismiss the refugees’ stories as CIA propaganda. For the most part, the truth came not from academics but from journalists, and in such books as Cambodia Year Zero, by the French priest François Ponchaud and Murder of a Gentle Land, by John Barron and Anthony Paul. (This book was damaged by the Reader’s Digest rhetoric in which it was presented, but its account of life under the Khmer Rouge was well researched and true.)

After the Vietnamese denounced the Khmer Rouge and then installed their own client Communist regime, many of those same academics switched their allegiance to the new state and remained committed to it (and critical of Western efforts to change it) through the Eighties.

Now, a whole new generation of Cambodian scholars has been working for UNTAC in Cambodia. They now have no illusions about any Cambodian faction; they have seen how each one abuses power, with the Hun Sen regime second only to the Khmer Rouge. Young scholars like Judy Ledgerwood, Jay Jordens, Penny Edwards, John Marston, Kate Frieson; Kirsten Haupt, Christophe Peschoux (author of Les Nouvelles Khmers Rouges), all of whom worked with Stephen Heder at the Information-Education division of UNTAC, will, I believe, provide far more telling and less credulous scholarship in the years to come. Cambodia will be helped by that aspect of the UN presence as by others.

In a speech just before the election, Pol Pot’s deputy, Khieu Samphan, predicted that the election was a “stinking farce” and that no one would vote. When millions of people turned out to do just that, the Khmer Rouge claimed that the numbers had been exaggerated. Then, as it became clear during the next few days that the enemies of the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese-backed Hun Sen regime, had been defeated, the propaganda began to change and the Khmer Rouge started to demand that the wishes of the people be respected. The truth of the matter was that the people had voted against both groups of Communists and their violent methods. Charles Twining, the US representative in Cambodia, said, “This leaves the Khmer Rouge in the forest. I hope they like the forest.”

The hard-liners in the Hun Sen regime had at first no intention of surrendering power. They started making quiet visits to the palace to talk to Prince Sihanouk or to his wife, Princess Monique, who had both returned from Peking the day before the elections. It is rumored in Phnom Penh that for a short time there was a danger of a Burmese-style takeover, with the regime rejecting the elections and closing off the country completely. This was averted, thanks in good part to the intervention of Sihanouk, who acted as an intermediary between Funcinpec and the Hun Sen regime.

Some of Sihanouk’s allies in Funcinpec think he went too far to meet the demands of Hun Sen and his colleagues. The American mission in Phnom Penh denounced his first attempt to organize a coalition government: for one thing, it was not called an “interim” government, and under the Paris Agreement the new, legal, recognized government should derive not from Sihanouk’s maneuvers but from the Constituent Assembly elected on May 23. The US Government also said that it was utterly opposed to the Khmer Rouge being allowed back into any coalition.

To show their strength, hard-liners in the Hun Sen regime, including another son of Sihanouk, Prince Chakrapong, a notoriously corrupt deputy premier with interests in aviation, who loathes his half brother, Rannarith, then declared that the eastern provinces bordering Vietnam were seceding. Although this was a short-lived threat, it caused terror among Funcinpec officials in the east—their offices were attacked, people were killed, and four thousand Funcinpec supporters fled to take refuge in Phnom Penh. Even so, by the second half of June, Sihanouk had successfully acted as broker in putting together an “Interim Joint Administration” in which the principal ministries were shared 50–50 between the two parties. This proportion does not accurately reflect the extent of Funcinpec’s victory at the polls, but at least one can say that Hun Sen’s CPP has agreed in principle to the peaceful transfer of some power. That is unprecedented in Cambodia.

I saw Sihanouk in his palace in Phnom Penh at the end of June, the same palace in which the Khmer Rouge had kept him under house arrest during the 1970s, when they also killed some of his relatives. He knew, he said, that he was being blackmailed by the Hun Sen regime, which not only oppressed, intimidated, and killed people but was “a champion of corruption.” The regime “was so ambitious for itself, not so much for Cambodia. They continued to think of their own interests and now they say to Funcinpec, ‘If you don’t share power, there will be secession and civil war.’ “

Sihanouk said he felt he had no choice—after twenty-three years of suffering and destruction in Cambodia, he had to allow the CPP to share power. He had also agreed, under pressure, that all votes in the new assembly would have to be passed by a two thirds majority, which gives the CPP a continuing veto over government business. This may prove to be a stranglehold, but Sihanouk felt that he had to avoid a conflict with Hun Sen and the CPP.

“Now the battle against the Khmer Rouge should not be seen in military terms,” said Sihanouk. “It should concentrate on two fields—the struggle against corruption and social injustice. We must struggle for the peasants’ prosperity. They are more than 80 percent of the nation. And we neglect them.” Until their lives were improved they would remain prey to the Khmer Rouge. That is undoubtedly true. And as to future dealings with the Khmer Rouge, it is well to remember it involves at least four groups—Pol Pot and the officials who were responsible for the atrocities of the 1970s; the middle-ranking and more junior officers who were then too young to have had much responsibility for these atrocities; the foot soldiers of the Khmer Rouge; and the ordinary people under their control.

Since the election, Sihanouk received several letters from Khieu Samphan, who is certainly a member of the first group, even though he has been used as the acceptable, diplomatic face of the Khmer Rouge. “They said in their last letter they were not interested in being in the government. They would like to remain simple citizens. Very dangerous! You know, I think it is better for us all to have them in the government than to have them as simple citizens! The simple citizens of the countryside or Phnom Penh are nice, but the simple citizens of the Khmer Rouge, that’s another matter! But the Americans don’t want the Khmer Rouge in the government. So we can’t.”

The problem, Sihanouk said, is that the choices are limited. “When you go into a restaurant and are given a big menu, you can choose many different specialties. But I have a big menu with only one dish!” At the end of June he was thinking of creating a senate to which he could appoint members, and in which the Khmer Rouge could have seats. This would bring them back into the national community without actually giving them a part of government. If they refused to accept, then he would simply leave them in the zones they now control and accept that they will be a semi-autonomous force. “I have no choice. The other choice is to restart the war. Our people do not deserve a war. We have to concentrate on rebuilding the 85 percent of Cambodia which is in our hands, before thinking of the reunification of the country. We can’t fight them. We would not win such a war.”

At the beginning of July Sihanouk received Khmer Rouge representatives at the Palace. They seem to be trying to become part of Cambodian politics again, and will probably resume “united front” efforts and position themselves to have a part in the government should the present coalition falter or fail.

Sihanouk left Cambodia in mid-July to spend two months in Pyong Yang, where he is frequently the guest of “my good friend” Kim II Sung, and where he will produce a new film, his favorite pastime, and Peking, where he will have a medical check-up. His departure has caused dismay in Phnom Penh among those who think it essential that he continue to act as the nation’s power broker. But he had to leave, he said, because his wife’s astrologers insist that there was a danger of assassination if he remained in Phnom Penh during the summer.

The central question now is whether Funcinpec, under Prince Rannarith, will have the strength and the determination to stand up to the entrenched power of Hun Sen and his colleagues who, like other Communists throughout the “post Communist” world, will struggle to maintain their dominance. The hard-liners still control most of the bureaucracy, the army, and the brutal secret police hit groups known as A-teams, although it denies that the latter do anything untoward. Moreover, many of the leaders of Funcinpec are much more used to life in Bangkok and, in Rannarith’s case, in Aix-en-Provence, where he teaches politics, than to fierce and ceaseless political combat.

Sihanouk, for his part, says that “people speak only of my autocracy and dictatorship when I was in power, not of my passion for building and uniting the country. Before I die I want to have a good name as the father of a new, genuine democracy.”

Much will depend on whether the Prince is really committed to these ideals and consistently tries to carry them out. His greatest legacy to Cambodia would be to help construct the institutions of a civil society. The new constitution which the Assembly is soon to approve will no doubt guarantee fundamental liberties on paper; but the question is whether Sihanouk and his allies can help set up an independent judiciary, a neutral civil service, and a free press to enforce those guarantees. Establishing such institutions and raising the standard of living of the poor would be the best way of combating the Khmer Rouge. As for Pol Pot himself, David Chandler points out that he is “alone with the fact that without his inhuman policies, one million Cambodians might not have died in less than four years, pointlessly and often in great pain.”

Just why is still, in part, a mystery. Chandler speculates about Jean Lacouture’s term “auto-genocide” to describe the conduct of the Khmer Rouge. But he points out that “clear parallels and probably inspirations” can be found in the Soviet collectivization of the Ukraine, in China’s Great Leap Forward, and in other purges mounted by both Communist countries. “In a sense, what happened in Cambodia, although more intense, was standard operating procedure in countries whose politics Pol Pot—or ‘Brother Number One,’ as he was informally known to subordinates—admired.”

The problem of the Khmer Rouge remains unsolved. The best hope is that the new coalition can start to create a more civilized society, one in which the rural poor are the principal beneficiaries. The power of the Khmer Rouge would then gradually seep away, and most of the younger troops and the peasants under its control could be reincorporated into Cambodian society.

As this article went to press, UNTAC reported more serious clashes between Khmer Rouge troops and those of Phnom Penh. There were also reports of new Khmer Rouge attacks on ethnic Vietnamese on the southern end of the Great Lake.

At the same time, Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge president, returning to Phnom Penh after three months’ absence, said that the Khmer Rouge were willing to join the new Royal Cambodian Army. He also said that Sihanouk was close to offering the Khmer Rouge a ministerial position in the new government. This would seriously affect the future of the new government if only because of Washington’s warning that the United States would not aid a government which contained the Khmer Rouge.

One must remember that in the election Cambodians freely chose “peace” and “reconciliation” over continued war. That choice must be respected. But if serious moves are made by the new coalition, or by Sihanouk himself, to include the Khmer Rouge at some level, there are some conditions which the international community has not only a right but a duty to insist on under the Paris Agreement.

—The Khmer Rouge must first agree to a genuine cease-fire. Their troops must strictly end all the offensive military activity they resumed in September–October 1992. They must proceed immediately to implement the substance of Phase 2 of the Paris Agreement, and agree to the containment and substantial demobilization of their forces. They must allow free access to the areas they control by their fellow Cambodians and by the international community. They must also allow Cambodians under their administration the freedom to leave.

—Khmer Rouge units remaining intact should be integrated into the new Cambodian army. The Khmer Rouge political party (CNUP) should be allowed to engage in legitimate political activities, if it is capable of doing so.

—The demobilization of the Khmer Rouge should be accompanied by guarantees of security for most of its officials—except those such as Pol Pot who are directly responsible for the major crimes of the Seventies or those committed since. These should be warned that if they are ever found in Cambodia, or elsewhere, they will be placed on trial for crimes against humanity. They will probably be given safe haven in China.

—The UN will have to consider retaining a military presence in Cambodia until the end of 1993, in order to supervise and fulfill this complex process.

The problems of Cambodia are by no means over. But in establishing UNTAC the international community has done much to make amends for the way in which the country has been abused in the last twenty-three years. Now, at last, there is at least a chance that the country can make a new start, and, for the first time in the twenty-odd years that I have been writing about Cambodia, it seems possible to be a bit optimistic. One can say this only because, against the odds, the ordinary Cambodian voters seized with dignity and courage the opportunity that the United Nations gave them.

July 15, 1993

This Issue

August 12, 1993