Down with Hun Sen?

Kofi Annan announced in the beginning of February that the UN has suspended contacts with Cambodia on the issue of the international tribunal on the Khmer Rouge. This gives a reason to examine the personality of Hun Sen, the premier of Cambodia.

Hun Sen and Prince Rinarit (they both were the prime ministers of the Cambodian kingdom at that time) asked the UN in June of 1997 for assistance in the organization of the trial on Khmer Rouge leaders. The world's mass media outlets repeatedly informed that the trial was about the start, but it failed every time. Four years have passed since then. Is it really harder to judge war crimes, than put an end to them?

However, Annan’s original requirements infringed upon Cambodia’s sovereignty: Annan demanded (allegedly with the goal of observing international standards) that there should be foreign judges in the tribunal and that the prosecutor should have the right to issue arrest warrants independent of the previous amnesties. He also wanted the litigation to cover the period of 1975-1979.

Hun Sen insisted on an international staff of the judges, with the majority being Cambodian judges, the trial to cover the years of 1970-1991. The potential loans and subsidies for recreating Cambodia depended on Hun Sen’s compliancy, and the latter finally agreed on a compromising variant: the Cambodian judges are in the majority, but the foreign judges will have the right to veto. The framework of the litigation is the period of 1975-1979.

Annan made a step back all of a sudden in February of 2002: “The government of Cambodia conceals all the attempts to set up a frame that will be capable of guaranteeing the honest trial that would meet the international standards.”

Influential American politicians and the world's mass media have made these charges against Hun Sen. First of all, all the leaders of Khmer Rouge are free, living in Cambodia, with the exception of Pol Pot, who died in 1997. Second of all, Hun Sen was himself a member of the Khmer Rouge in the past.

We are used to comprehending the term Khmer Rouge almost as fascism. However, if we go to the website of the Library of the US Congress, to section dealing with Cambodia, we will find out that this is far from the truth. The Khmer Rouge underwent several changes over 25 years.

1970-1975 – advance-guard of the Resistance to the American occupation troops and Lon Nol’s regime, with the head of the group of “intellectual Marxists,” who studied in France;

1975-1978 – the constructors of the Maoist-Troitsky utopia in their country of short existence – the Democratic Kampuchea.

1978 – 1991 – terrorist groups that were waging war against the People’s republic of Kampuchea. 1991-1998 – the terrorists rejected the national reconciliation and conducted terrorist activities against the Cambodian kingdom.

The statistics of the "killing fields" also needs to be reconsidered. Mass media outlets usually write this about Khmer Rouge: “One million seven thousand Cambodians were killed.” However, this looks different on the website of the Library of the American Congress: “Father Ponchaud suggested 2.3 million; Amnesty International estimated 1.4 million dead; and the United States State Department, 1.2 million. Pol Pot cited figures of 800,000. In 1962, the year of the last census taken before Cambodia was engulfed by war, the population of the country was cited at 5.7 million. Ten years later, in 1972, the population was estimated to have reached 7.1 million.

How did those numbers appear? It turns out that the summary of the population census over 1962 was taken as a ground (5.7 million people), and from this figure, they calculated the approximate number for 1972: 7.1 million people; then, the most probable variants were calculated, the percentage of the victims.

There is a more reliable criteria nowadays. Taking account of the official statistics, which says that there were 11.6 million people living in Cambodia, and that the norm of the growth was 24.5% over ten years, then the “losses” of the period 1972-1979 could not exceed 950 thousand.

The role of the US Air Force in the genocide is also exposed by the same website: United States official documents give a figure of 79,959 sorties by B-52 and F-111 aircraft over the country, during which a total of 539,129 tons of ordnance were dropped, about 350 percent of the tonnage (153,000 tons) dropped on Japan during World War II. Deaths from the bombing are extremely difficult to estimate, and figures range from a low of 30,000 to a high of 500,000.

Bush’s anti-terrorist action in Afghanistan pales in comparison with Nixon’s Indo-Chinese massacre, and Khmer Rouge’s army of guerrillas were a lot more imperishable than Al-Qaida’s.

Speaking about the brutality of Pol Pot’s followers, the website of the American Congress mentions the version that it could be caused with the exasperation because of the American bombing.

Pnompen, which fell in April of 1975, appeared to the Khmer Rouge as the concentration of the Universal Evil, which was torturing them with land mines, napalms, poisonous dioxin for five years in a non-contact way. Americans flew away, having left their indigenous servants to the mercy of fate: officers and officials of the puppet government, prostitutes.

The outbursts of the revenge were added with the “theory.” Pol Pot has been to China twice, to Cambodia’s misfortune. In China, he admired the people’s communes, the cultural revolution, and the expulsion of the intellectuals to the remote countryside for their re-education. Dreaming about the utopia of the “pure” society of peasants, he started expelling the townspeople: many of them died of hunger or illnesses. Not all of the Khmer Rouge liked the situation, and there was a murmur on different levels and the tragic statistics was added to with the inner cleansing.

The dispute pertaining to the time periods is not incidental. The American Air Force (which has almost half of the million “losses” of the Cambodians on its conscience) was working during the period 1970-1975, and the USA is totally against digging into the events of that period, as well as in the events after 1987, when there was a military and political union with Pol Pot.

Isn’t it a good idea to shift blame? To blame the Khmer Rouge for America’s role in the genocide and even make it legal through a international court! However, Hun Sen was a stumbling block. Senator Mitch McConnell’s article, which was published in the Boston Globe, shows the measure of dislike of Hun Sen (the article was published three days after Annan’s demarche and two weeks after the notorious axis of evil statement:

“In the post-Sept. 11 world, we no longer have the luxury of believing that the threat of terrorism is someone else's problem. The State Department has been unable or unwilling to commit to the cause of democracy in Cambodia. Complacent diplomats in Phnom Penh have preferred quiet diplomacy to confrontation in checking Prime Minister Hun Sen's corrupt rule. The results have been disastrous.

In an effort to level the political playing field, the State Department should immediately embark on an aggressive program to support the democratic opposition in the 2003 polls through technical training and material support. The need for immediate and aggressive action is further heightened by reports of cash assistance provided to the CPP by the People's Republic of China.

Most important, America should lead the international community in holding the CPP accountable to international norms and standards be it in the fields of good governance, human rights, or elections. It is only when impunity ends that the country will be able to embark on a meaningful path of reform.”

Hun Sen was born in August of 1952 to a family of peasants. At the age of seventeen, he was involved in protests and he was trained in Khmer Rouge units. Hun Sen was wounded five times in battles (his left eye is blind). When he was the deputy commander of the military unit, he condemned Pol Pot’s brutality, and then escaped to Vietnam in 1977, afraid of the punishment. He took part in the establishment of the joint front of the national liberation in 1978, which overthrew Pol Pot with the help of Vietnamese troops. When Hun Sen was 26 years old, he became the foreign minister of the newly established People’s Republic of Kampuchea, and, in 1985, he became its premier.

Hun Sen’s triumph as the architecture of the peace in 1991 seemed to have doomed him to vanishing from the political scene. Everybody was against him in the “free elections” of 1992: the UN, the USA, China, and the royal family, which returned to Pnompen. The collapse of the USSR and of the socialist regimes of Eastern Europe also betokened the crash. However, the communists from the People’s party of Cambodia (in which he is the deputy chairman) yielded just a little to the favorite-royalists, and Hun Sen retrieved his position of the premier.

The interview to a Singapore newspaper, “Why did Hun Sen write Cambodia 130 years?”, may help to understand the phenomenon. This book was written in 1991, he said (the conversation took place in March 1999), so it had to be renewed. How? With the help of Lenin’s works came Hun Sen’s answer:

When I asked him which one of Lenin's works had the most influence on him, he turned to a page marked in his thesis and answered: "Lenin's 1921 New Economic Policy." And then he said:

"I'm not completely satisfied with this book, because Cambodia and the international situation have already developed into a new era," he said. "When I wrote this book, the Cold War was not finished and the world was in the process of radical changes. Today, the Cold War is theoretically finished. I say 'in theory' because it is not really finished. In reality, the Cold War is being fiercely waged. It's one side against another, and there's a one-sided attack. Even though there is no ideological antagonism, there is still the winning side attacking the ideology of the losing side.

In March of 1999, when Ta Mok, the top military leader of Pol Pot’s troops, yielded to the government, the USA required that Ta Mok should be delivered for the tribunal. Hun Sen answered: “The UN allowed Khmer Rouge to kill Cambodians and take its place in the UN for twenty years. Those people who used to be in the plot with Khmer Rouge now want to judge them. If they wished to arrest them, they should have done that long ago.”

Yes, it is true. In 1975-1978, when Pol Pot’s guerrillas were committing atrocities, they were representing Cambodia in the UN; in 1978-1991, when they were waging guerrilla warfare from the jungles (the whole world knew about their brutality), it was Khmer Rouge that was sitting in the UN, not the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, and the USA was helping Ta Mok, arranging diversions. Why was this so? Because Vietnam and the USSR were allies of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea. These are Annan’s international standards.

"I already told Kofi Annan that some of his legal experts are watching a single tree in a whole forest," he said referring to last month's meeting in Bangkok." But, for me, I am watching the whole forest, including justice, peace, national reconciliation, political stability and development, but you only say trial, trial, trial.”

Yeng Sari and 4000 guerrillas capitulated in 1996 with an amnesty. Two years ago, they surrendered to the government of Khieu Samfan and Muon Chea, which became an important stage on the way to stop the bloodshed. These people are very old now (they are over 70), and they are living in the town of Paylin. Hun Sen, having agreed to make concessions to Annan and the USA, does not give in to the requirement of the foreign prosecutor, who would be authorized to issue arrest warrants. This is not because of the wish to keep his word; he is doing it in order to preserve the political stability and not to allow the civil war to start over again.

Hun Sen defined the incumbent government of Cambodia as economy-oriented. He says he will stand down quietly, hand over the reins of power smoothly, concentrate on his family, and play some more chess. "I will not accept being prime minister if economic issues and the living standards of the people are not made a supreme priority of the new government."

Andrey Krushinsky PRAVDA.Ru Beijing

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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