Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali asked the Security Council on Thursday to dispatch more than 20,000 soldiers and administrators to Cambodia in an unprecedented, $2-billion program that would transform that devastated Southeast Asian country into a virtual U.N. colony for more than a year.
The plan builds upon a peace agreement signed by the warring factions of Cambodia last October and envisions a U.N. reign that would guide the country toward peace, security and democracy.
Under the proposals, the United Nations would supervise elections, disarm soldiers, manage the police, run much of the government and care for the tide of returning refugees. The U.N. presence would be so pervasive that its personnel would even issue passports, prepare videotapes about the importance of human rights and ensure that the press and television give every candidate a fair shake.
The U.N. vision of turning a country bled by the Khmer Rouge and occupied for years by Communist Vietnam into a paragon of democracy is so lofty that some critics look on it as impractical.
"Trying to turn that ravished country into a democracy in 18 months is a utopian goal that cannot be accomplished," said one Western diplomat after Boutros-Ghali sent his report to the Security Council.
Despite such misgivings, the council is expected to approve most of the recommendations sometime next week, though it is possible that the members may try to scale down the program.
Although Boutros-Ghali did not provide a budget estimate to the council, his special representative for Cambodia, Yasushi Akashi of Japan, told reporters that the cost would be just under $2 billion. Besides this, the secretary general hopes to solicit $800 million worth of voluntary contributions to help the economic rehabilitation of Cambodia.
A small contingent of U.N. peacekeepers are already in place in Cambodia, preparing the way for the main body of U.N. soldiers and administrators who would start to arrive in the next month or two under the Boutros-Ghali proposals.
Under the peace agreement, Cambodia is now in the hands of an interim Supreme National Council headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and made up of the leaders of the Hanoi-backed government in Phnom Penh and of the three guerrilla organizations that fought against it. But it is clear that, under the U.N. plan, Akashi would be Cambodia's real governor; Gen. John Sanderson of Australia would head the U.N. military operation.
The United Nations has never mounted a peacekeeping operation of this size or scope before. It has never before attempted to serve as the governor, arbiter and tutor of a nation. But Akashi noted that this role had been thrust on the United Nations by the Cambodian peace agreement. "It is not our choice to do it," he told reporters. "We are duty-bound to do it."
The largest element of the U.N. plan would be a military force of 15,900 troops charged with supervising a cease-fire and disarming the estimated 450,000 troops and militia that had fought against each other in the 12-year civil war. Boutros-Ghali estimated that these forces still have more than 300,000 weapons and 80 million rounds of ammunition. He urged all the Cambodian parties to order their soldiers to give up their arms and to return to civilian life before voter registration is over at the year's end.
Proposing elections in April or May of 1993 for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution for Cambodia, Boutros-Ghali said the United Nations would need staff to supervise the registration of voters; voting by secret ballot at 8,000 or more polling sites, and the counting of the votes by computer.
He estimated that half of Cambodia's population of 8.7 million would be eligible to vote. He said a large staff of administrators would be needed to take part in the Cambodian administration since the United Nations would have "direct control" over foreign affairs, national defense, public security, finance and information. "It is the United Nations alone that has the responsibility for determining what will be necessary in these fields," he said.
The United Nations, under the plan, would also have charge of caring for more than 300,000 refugees who are expected to return to their agricultural homeland from camps on the Thai border. The United Nations plans to supply them with land, housing materials and agricultural tools.
With an enormous number of weapons at large in Cambodia and large numbers of fighters returning to civilian life, Boutros-Ghali predicted a possible "deterioration of the law and order situation with an increase in brigandage, robbery, violence and theft." To help deal with this problem and to supervise the police who now work for one of the four factions in Cambodia, he has proposed a force of 3,000 U.N. "civilian police monitors."