Khmer Rouge send peace proposal to Cambodian government
April 22, 1998
Khmer Rouge soldiers
Web posted at: 8:12 a.m. EDT (1212 GMT)
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- The Khmer Rouge has sent a peace proposal to the Cambodian government, an official from the organization said Wednesday.
"We have sent a three-point peace proposal to the Phnom Penh government a few days ago and are optimistic the government will take it into consideration," Gen. Khem Ngun, commander of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, told Reuters in a telephone interview from his jungle base near Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia.
"Our first condition is to bring about national reconciliation where all parties announce an end to war which no one has won, no one has lost," he said. "...A national government should be formed to run the country during the transitional period. After that a general election should be organized under U.N. supervision."
Elections are already scheduled for July. Khem Ngun said he was the new military commander of the Khmer Rouge hard-liners, replacing Ta Mok who had retired, and he said the group had changed its name to the National Solidarity Party.
In Phnom Penh, Defense Minister Tea Banh said there was no substance to the rebels' proposal and expressed skepticism at their claim that Khmer Rouge military strongman Ta Mok had retired.
"It's only talk, it's worthless," Tea Banh told Reuters. Asked if he believed Ta Mok had really retired, Tea Banh laughed and said: "Go and ask them again."
Ranariddh returns for discussions with King Sihanouk
Also on Wednesday, ousted Cambodian Co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh returned to Cambodia to discuss his worries about the upcoming elections with his father, King Norodom Sihanouk.
Ranariddh flew into the village of Siem Reap from Bangkok. After meeting with his father, he told reporters that the king fully supports efforts by the Association of South East Asian Nations, the United States and Japan to ensure the July 26 elections will be free and fair.
Of particular concern to Ranariddh and Sihanouk are concerns that voters will suffer intimidation and voting will be flawed as a result.
To fight this, Sihanouk wants as many international observers in the country as possible when voters go to the polls.
The prince won the nation's last elections in 1993, but was forced from power last July by his coalition partner, Hun Sen, who now controls the Cambodian government.
Hun Sen has asked the United Nations to coordinate the election, but has refused to let the organization monitor the elections the way it did in 1993.
The parliament on Tuesday rejected a proposed ammendment to a voting law aimed at ensuring votes are counted at the district level rather than the village level where they will be cast.
Opposition politicians argue that voters can be intimidated if their votes are counted in the villages they are cast. Ranariddh did not comment on parliament's rejection of the proposal, but did say that if the elections are to go smoothly, all parties must cooperate.
Comments on Pol Pot death, remaining Khmer Rouge
Ranariddh said the death of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot last week was the end of an ugly chapter in Cambodia's history, but said he was worried about the remaining members of Pol Pot's leadership.
"He belongs to a very bad page of Cambodian history but I'm worried about the rest," Ranariddh said. "Pol Pot is gone but what happens to Ieng Sary, Ta Mok, Nuon Chea and the others?" Ieng Sary was foreign minister in Pol Pot's 1975-79 "killing fields" government when more than a million Cambodians were killed or died of starvation or hard labor.
Reuters contributed to this report.