Hopes for an end to the murderous civil war in long-suffering Cambodia have been dashed once again. As a result, the killing fields remain. When will there be an end to the savagery and dying?
Peace talks between the Vietnamese-backed communist government of Cambodia and a rebel alliance broke off quickly last week when the Khmer Rouge, the largest of the three resistance factions, refused to show up.The talks, which were to have taken place in Tokyo under Japanese sponsorship, were expected to result in acceptance of a peace proposal initialed by all sides last month and a cease-fire, thus ending the long civil war.
Unfortunately, Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan boycotted the talks because he objected to being a member of a delegation headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, head of one of the two smaller, non-communist rebel factions.
The Khmer Rouge, the most effective, disciplined and well-trained military force, is known for a bloody reign of terror in Cambodia in the late 1970s that left more than 1 million dead. Although Sihanouk claims the Khmer Rouge executed five of his children, he is willing to work with them as the only realistic way of ending war in Cambodia.
Meanwhile, the United States is withholding support from the Khmer Rouge because of the atrocities it has committed and instead supports the two non-communist rebel factions led by Sihanouk and Son Sann.
This appears the best policy since the current Vietnam-backed government has been suspect since 1978 when Vietnam invaded Cambodia and ousted the Khmer Rouge.
Last September, Vietnam announced its intention of withdrawing from Cambodia and leaving only advisers, technicians and intelligence officers.
However, to date there is no sign of such withdrawal. In fact, both the United States and the Cambodian resistance charge there are 40,000 Vietnamese combat troops still active in Cambodia. Many wear Cambodian army uniforms.
If Sihanouk were to have his way there would be a greater peace-keeping role in Cambodia for the United Nations. It is a noble plan that will get nowhere unless the Khmer Rouge miraculously listens to reason.
Since there is no present indication that they will, the bloody civil war that has devastated Cambodia since the 1970s is bound to continue.