JULY 14, 1997
Cambodia's Hun Sen has lashed out at foreign governments who condemned last week's coup by saying he won't join ASEAN, the Asian trade partnership. In a background report, Charles Krause interviews ousted Prince Ranariddh. A discussion among Cambodia experts and Margaret Warner follows, analyzing what's next for the troubled nation.
CHARLES KRAUSE: In 1991, the United Nations and an international coalition of countries decided to devote $2 billion in an effort to restore peace and stability to the battered nation of Cambodia. The country had suffered from genocide, civil war, and political turmoil since the mid 70's, when a nationalist guerrilla force, known as the Khmer Rouge, seized power and then killed over a million Cambodians viewed as potential opponents of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Online NewsHour links:
June 18, 1997:
A discussion of the continuing unrest in Cambodia and rumors of Pol Pot's capture.
May 16, 1996:
President Clinton announces his plan to limit the use of landmines.
January 4, 1996:
Elizabeth Farnsworth reports on the use of land mines in Cambodia and elsewhere.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of Asia.
The Cambodian Embassy to the U.S.
Cambodia in Modern History: a site produced by those who opposed the Khmer Rouge
In 1979, Vietnam invaded the country, setting up a government in Phnom Penh and forcing the Khmer Rouge and its notorious leader, Pol Pot, into the countryside. Throughout the 80's, Cambodia festered. But in 1992, once a U.N.-brokered peace accord was signed in Paris, Cambodia suddenly became the recipient of one of the largest U.N. missions in history. The goal was to rebuild the country economically and to create political stability by holding free and fair elections. Within months after the peace accord was signed, U.N. workers had set up television and radio stations. Others traveled into the most remote parts of the country to educate and register voters.
ELECTION WORKER: And today we have come here to explain to you about the elections and about human rights.
CHARLES KRAUSE: By the time the election took place, the U.N. had registered almost 96 percent of the eligible voters, some 4.6 million people. The election produced a coalition government with two prime-ministers--Prince Norodom Ranariddh representing the royalist forces, who had narrowly won the vote, and co-prime minister Hun Sen, a former member of the Khmer Rouge, who later defected, and became a powerful figure in Cambodia's Vietnamese-sponsored government after 1979.
Still, despite the peace agreement and the election, the Khmer Rouge refused to disarm, and low level violence continued throughout the country. At the same time in the capital, beginning in 1993, the two rival prime ministers-Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen--continued to vie for dominance. Then last month, the situation suddenly deteriorated. First there were reports, still not conclusively confirmed, that Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot had been captured.
A top Khmer Rouge leader and his family apparently were also assassinated. Then, fighting broke out between forces loyal to Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party, better known as CPP, and forces loyal to Prince Ranariddh and his party, known by the acronym FUNCINPEC. Last weekend, after two days of heavy fighting and the assassinations of several top government officials allied with the prince, Hun Sen declared victory and claimed control of the government. In all, at least 50 people were left dead and hundreds of foreigners living in Cambodia rushed to the airport and were flown out of the country. In protest, the United States temporarily suspended its $30 million aid program to Cambodia.
NICHOLAS BURNS, State Department Spokesman: We are aware of reports of political assassinations and political killings, including reports that the associate of Prince Ranariddh, Hosuk, was killed yesterday while he was in the custody of the political party of Hun Sen. The United States condemns this killing.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Meanwhile, ousted prime minister Prince Ranariddh was in France at the time of the coup and in the United States last week, lobbying for support and recognition. On Friday, he told us he had left Cambodia because he'd had advance warning the coup would take place.
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH, First Prime Minister, Cambodia: Oh yes, we knew very well. The coup was prepared for months, and he has decided on the 11th of June, and even Mr. Hun Sen, when he met with Her Majesty, the Queen of Cambodia, he told when he see the queen that I will attack Prince Ranariddh residence; he will--I will attack the headquarters of Prince Ranariddh. Yes, we really were aware about the preparation and the execution of the coup.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Did you make any effort to either rally forces supporting you to head off this coup, or did you notify the United States and other countries that this coup might be underway in order to try to get their support before you were forced to flee?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: I think that the ambassador of the United States to Cambodia knew about it.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Did he urge you to stay, did he urge you to go? Did he offer help?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: I think that he would say that--that the real tension between the two prime ministers--it is what--what he told me--that he tried to see the two prime ministers in order to ease the tension and to urge the two prime ministers not to use any force to, you know, settle the differences.
CHARLES KRAUSE: In that case, he was unsuccessful because one of the prime ministers, your opponent, went after you, didn't he?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: I think that is the least we can say.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Are you satisfied with the role that the United States has played up until now in terms of the internal situation in your country?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: For the time being I'm satisfied with the stand of the administration in saying that any use of force to topple the prime minister, which is myself is not definitely acceptable, and the United States had decided to freeze her aid to Phnom Penh and to Cambodia, but for only 30 days. I think that if the administration should do much more.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Did you ever ask the United States for military support prior to the coup in order to forestall the coup?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: Not at all. Not at all. And I'd like to tell you that I don't like very much to talk about any military aid because I know that the people of Cambodia have suffered too much in the past without talking--you know--about destruction and so on of my very poor country, Cambodia.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Tell me this. What is the situation in Cambodia at this time? Is the Hun Sen regime in power? Have your allies been defeated now?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: Yes. The fact is that after the coup Hun Sen is now controlling the capital, but we have to say that now all around the capital and let's say all around the country now there are recurrence of fighting, even I think that we can talk about the beginning of a resistance, if not the civil war, and the situation is--I have to say--very explosive and maybe we will step back to the situation before the peace agreement be signed in 1991 and if it would be the case, I think that it would be a real serious setback in terms of democracy, in terms of freedom for Cambodia.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Will you return to Cambodia to lead this resistance movement you've talked about?
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: I would prefer to talk for the time being of another kind of resistance, which is a political and diplomatical struggle, instead of, you know, a military resistance, because, as I told you, I think that the people of Cambodia who have suffered for too long deserve much better future. I think that we have to put political and diplomatic pressure--even economic sanction--on Hun Sen before talking about the military resistance.
CHARLES KRAUSE: What specifically would you like the United States and the European countries to do? You've talked about economic sanctions. What specifically would you like both in the area of economic sanctions and also diplomacy?
And on the other hand, the only one government could be recognized is that one coming out from the elections organized by the United Nations in 1993, and that government has two prime ministers--myself and Hun Sen. I think that we have to stick to the Paris peace accord. Otherwise, >I think that we will open the door to any kind of, you know, use of force, coup detate, and to be legitimated later by the world community. I think that it is a question of principle.
CHARLES KRAUSE: Your Highness, thank you very much. Thank you for joining us.
PRINCE NORODOM RANARIDDH: It is my pleasure.