Cambodia’s 4 Factions Agree on Plans to Demobilize : Southeast Asia: Civil war parties agree to cut their armies to 30% of their present size. The move clears the way for an overall peace accord.
The four factions in Cambodia’s civil war reached agreement Tuesday on a formula for demobilizing their armed forces, clearing the way for an overall peace agreement to end 12 years of conflict.
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who was deposed as Cambodia’s leader in 1970 and is now chairing peace talks between the factions, said that all four parties have agreed to cut their armies to 30% of their present size.
Sihanouk said the remaining troops are to be restricted to special military camps where they would be supervised by United Nations troops. They would surrender their weapons to U.N. control and would not be allowed to venture out of their camps.
The agreement appears to have removed the largest outstanding obstacle to a peace settlement based on a draft submitted by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
“They have addressed the substance for the first time and begun to deal with it,” said a senior Western diplomat.
Representatives of the five permanent Security Council members--the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China--will meet after the peace talks here to determine if the faction’s counterproposals are acceptable enough to permit an active U.N. role in the settlement.
The Security Council draft agreement, which was written in November, 1990, had suggested a complete demobilization monitored by the United Nations. But the government in Phnom Penh objected, saying that the hard-line Khmer Rouge guerrillas had so much materiel hidden in the jungles that they could continue to threaten Phnom Penh’s survival despite total demobilization.
Sihanouk, who is chairman of a 12-man interim government known as the Supreme National Council, said the 70% force reduction applied only to regular army troops, not to police or militia forces as the Khmer Rouge had earlier demanded.
He left unclear how the parties would estimate the total force numbers on which the reductions will be based. While there are no official figures, Western analysts believe the Phnom Penh government has about 40,000 regular army troops, while the Khmer Rouge has about 30,000 fighters. Two smaller non-Communist guerrilla armies in coalition with the Khmer Rouge have about 25,000 men under arms.
Sihanouk said Cambodia’s police force, estimated at 30,000 men, also is to be placed under the control of the U.N. Transitional Authority for Cambodia, which will be known as UNTAC.
In addition, UNTAC will control “key ministries,” believed to include defense and the police, but the ministries will remain nominally in the hands of the Phnom Penh government.
In another development, the national council agreed to give Sihanouk extensive powers to break any impasse in the 12-man body, as long as he takes “into account the views of the SNC.”
Sihanouk said he feels confident that the permanent members of the Security Council would accept the compromises, but he noted that if the United States objects, “there will be an impasse.”
The agreement came on the national council’s second day of talks in this Thai beach resort, better known for its squalid night life of prostitutes and transvestite shows. The Cambodians asked to be allowed to hold this round of talks in Pattaya because the first breakthrough in the negotiations took place here in June.
During the first meeting, the four factions agreed to a cease-fire and to halt all arms shipments from abroad. But without U.N. participation, there is no neutral way of monitoring compliance with those agreements.
During Tuesday afternoon’s talks, the government of Cambodian Premier Hun Sen raised a sheaf of amendments to the U.N. draft agreement, prompting the negotiators to add an extra day of deliberations.
While many of the changes were minor, Sihanouk said Hun Sen had proposed a clause under which only political parties that declare their opposition to the “universally condemned policies” of the recent past could participate in elections. Sihanouk pointed out that this would virtually exclude the Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cambodians, from taking part in an election.
The government also wanted to change the election system from proportional representation, under which each party would be represented in parliament by its percentage of the overall national vote, to a simple majority in each constituency. The constituency system would tend to favor the government because its control extends to all parts of the country. The guerrilla factions insist on proportional representation.
If the five permanent members of the Security Council give their blessing to the revised peace accord, Sihanouk said the national council will convene next month at the United Nations in New York. A peace agreement would be signed in Paris in October.
The peace plan written by the United Nations calls for free elections to be held under U.N. supervision within a reasonable period of time.
U.N. officials have expressed hope that the elections will be held within a year after the signing of a peace agreement. Several hundred thousand Cambodian refugees are now in Thailand and will have to be repatriated and resettled before the elections can be held.
The large expatriate Cambodian community in Long Beach, Calif., will also have a chance to return under the settlement.
The agreement’s significance extends beyond Cambodia: The United States has said that it will begin the process of reopening relations with Vietnam after the signing of a Cambodian peace pact and that full diplomatic recognition of Vietnam would follow the Cambodian elections.
The United States has led an economic embargo against Vietnam since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, which has effectively blocked assistance to Hanoi from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Long threatened by neighboring Thais and Vietnamese, Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863 and later part of French Indochina. Granted independence in 1953, Cambodia was buffeted by the Vietnamese struggle against French colonialism and America’s involvement in Southeast Asia. The Cambodian monarchy was abolished after a 1970 coup by rightists, who were ousted by Communist insurgents in 1975. Latent ethnic hostilities exacerbated by border clashes led to a Vietnamese invasion in 1978 that drove the Communist Khmer Rouge from power and brought on a guerrilla conflict with Cold War overtones. Big-power backing for the combatants--Communist and non-Communist--gradually changed to efforts to help make peace.