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Country Study By Russell R. RossPosted: 2009-09-24 09:58:53   Replies: 0
Khmer History (74)

From "Proximity Talks" to a "Cocktail Party"

The conciliatory gestures of Hanoi and of Phnom Penh were part of a spate of proposals and counterproposals made in 1985. On April 9, Malaysia suggested "proximity," or indirect, talks between the CGDK and the Heng Samrin regime. Vietnam, the PRK, and the Soviet Union reacted favorably. Sihanouk voiced "personal" support for indirect negotiations. He was, however, uncertain whether his CGDK partners and unnamed foreign powers would go along with the Malaysian proposal because such talks, indirect as they might be, not only would imply de facto recognition of the Phnom Penh regime but also would obscure the question of Vietnamese occupation. ASEAN's deputy foreign ministers met in Bangkok in May, nevertheless; they endorsed the Malaysian plan and referred the matter to CGDK's representatives in Bangkok. At the time of the ASEAN meeting, Sihanouk released a memorandum that called for unconditional peace talks among all Cambodian factions and for the formation of a reconciliation government comprising both the CGDK and the Heng Samrin regime.

During the ensuing diplomatic exchanges, the Malaysian plan was discarded. The ASEAN foreign ministers, who met in Kuala Lumpur from July 8 to July 9, 1985, adopted a Thai compromise proposal that called for "a form of indirect or proximity talks" between the CGDK and Vietnam. The proposal noted that the Heng Samrin regime could attend the talks only as part of the Vietnamese delegation. The CGDK, China, and the United States backed the Thai proposal, but Phnom Penh and Hanoi rejected it as a scheme to restore the Pol Pot faction to power.

In yet another attempt to break the Cambodian impasse, Indonesia offered in November 1985 to host an informal "cocktail party" for all warring Cambodian factions. (At that time Indonesia served as ASEAN's official "interlocutor" with Vietnam.) Indonesia apparently had concluded that such an informal gathering was timely in view of two recent developments: the Khmer Rouge announcement in July that it would acquiesce, if necessary, to being excluded from a future Cambodian coalition government; and Hanoi's disclosure in August that it would complete its withdrawal from Cambodia by 1990 (five years sooner than had been indicated in its April 1985 announcement), even in the absence of a political settlement on the Cambodian issue at that time. Another notable development was the Khmer Rouge disclosure in September that Pol Pot had stepped down from his post as commander in chief of the armed forces to take up a lesser military post. On December 30, Khieu Samphan stated that Pol Pot's political-military role would cease permanently upon Hanoi's consenting to complete its withdrawal by the end of 1990. Hanoi, in an apparent departure from its previous stand, pledged that its pullout would be completed as soon as the Khmer Rouge forces disarmed.

In 1986 the Cambodian stalemate continued amid further recriminations and new conciliatory gestures. On March 17, the CGDK issued an eight-point peace plan that included the Heng Samrin regime in a projected four-party Cambodian government. The plan called for a two-phase Vietnamese withdrawal; for a cease-fire to allow an orderly withdrawal--both the cease-fire and the withdrawal to be supervised by a UN observer group, for the initiation of negotiations, following the first phase of the withdrawal, and for the formation of an interim four-party coalition government with Sihanouk as president and Son Sann as prime minister. According to the plan, the coalition government would then hold free elections under UN supervision to set up a liberal, democratic, and nonaligned Cambodia, the neutrality of which would be guaranteed by the UN for the first two or three years. The new Cambodia would welcome aid from all countries for economic reconstruction and would sign a nonaggression and peaceful coexistence treaty with Vietnam. Hanoi and Phnom Penh denounced the plan and labeled it as a vain attempt by China to counter the PRK's "rapid advance." Sihanouk shared some of the misgivings about the plan, fearing that, without sufficient safeguards, the Khmer Rouge would dominate the quadripartite government that emerged. Perhaps to allay such misgivings, China signaled the possibility of ending its aid to the Khmer Rouge if Vietnam withdrew from Cambodia.

In late October 1986, Hanoi, through an Austrian intermediary, suggested two-stage peace negotiations to Sihanouk. In the first stage, there were to be preliminary talks in Vienna among all Cambodian parties, including the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot, however, was to be excluded). The second phase was to be an international conference that included the contending Cambodian factions, as well as Vietnam, and other interested countries. Sihanouk responded with a counterproposal that called for his meeting with a top-level Vietnamese leader. This meeting was to be followed by an all- Cambodian session and then by an international conference. According to unconfirmed reports, Pol Pot, now gravely ill, had been transferred to Beijing shortly after Hanoi's offer to Sihanouk. If these reports were true, Pol Pot's role within the Khmer Rouge camp may have ended with his illness.

A new phase in the Cambodian peace strategies began in 1987. At the beginning of the year Hanoi renewed its October bid to Sihanouk. Hanoi appeared eager to seek a way out of the Cambodian imbroglio, but continued to argue that Vietnam had "security interests" in Cambodia and that China was the main threat to Southeast Asia. It also was evident that Hanoi was attempting to split ASEAN's consensus on Cambodia by claiming that Indonesia and Malaysia had a correct view of the Chinese threat while rejecting the view of Thailand and Singapore that Vietnam was ASEAN's principal nemesis in the region.

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