An Interview with Khmer Rouge Leader Khieu Samphan
Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 1992
By Nate Thayer
The following are excerpts from an interview in early August between Khieu Samphan, president of Democratic Kampuchea, and the Phnom Penh Post.
On Working with UNTAC
Our position remains clear. As long as the fundamental issues are not resolved, other issues cannot be resolved. If we do not implement the Paris agreement to force Vietnam to withdraw, there will be no peace in Cambodia, there will be no national reconciliation, and there will be no neutral political environment necessary to hold elections.
We have clearly said that the most important thing is the implementation of the Paris agreement in regard to the SNC [Supreme National Council]-the sole legitimate source of authority in Cambodia. If the SNC remains without power and means, then UNTAC-either consciously or unconsciously-is cooperating with the Phnom Penh regime and the elections will certainly be held within the framework of the regime set up by the Vietnamese. There can be no neutral political environment under such conditions to hold an election-the result of which would be to rubberstamp the Vietnamese occupation.
We will never accept this and cannot participate in elections or political activity under such conditions. If these two key provisions are not implemented, then the Party of Democratic Kampuchea cannot have a neutral political environment in order to have elections. If such a situation continues, we will continue to do as we are doing now.
I also told Akashi clearly that our own proposal is only one proposal. We would consider any proposal that would allow the SNC to play its role. We continue to believe that through consultation and dialogue, we will be able to break the current deadlock.
No Desire to Return to Power
If we look at the past nine months, we can see that this is the main trend: the western powers' thinking is now to get rid of the forces of the party of Democratic Kampuchea. They try to keep in place the Phnom Penh regime and the Vietnamese forces, to use these forces to try to get rid of the Khmer Rouge.
Allow me to inform the western powers that we do not entertain any idea whatsoever to return to power. If we look at the provisions of the Paris agreement, there is no provision to allow us to return to power.
The Paris agreement calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces and entrusts UNTAC to organize and supervise elections in a neutral political environment. We will respect these elections and have no desire to return to power.
The big western powers should ask [the opinion of] Cambodians, including those living in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Those Cambodians will tell them that, while they do not agree with the policies between 1975 and 1978, they do not agree that the Khmer Rouge should be eliminated.
All Cambodians want national reconciliation, and on this point they support the Democratic Kampuchea party. This does not mean they join our party; but they don't want us eliminated.
Relations with China
In concrete terms we no longer receive assistance from China. I have seen [Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xu Dunxin] a few days ago. He conveyed to me the position of China, and tried to impress upon me that we should enter into Phase II. He said that [Democratic Kampuchea's] two key provisions are reasonable and correct, but that we should enter into Phase II and discuss the matter at the same time. I conveyed to China that we want the two key provisions implemented first.
I think you understand that China has no interest in supporting the party of Democratic Kampuchea in violation of the peace agreement. China needs to have good relations with the west in all fields-trade, diplomatic, and economic. China also wants to have good relations with Vietnam, now that there is no more Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and in a situation where the socialist community is disappearing.
On Vietnamese Settlers
Recently [U.S. Chief-of-Mission] Charles Twining spoke of his worst nightmare, seeing Vietnamese corpses floating down the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. UNTAC must understand the urgency of resolving the problem of the Vietnamese settlers, who are part of Vietnam's occupation plan, which continues to swallow Cambodia.
If the Cambodian people cannot see a peaceful resolution to the problem, they will seek other means. So the nightmare that Twining was talking about might become a reality. What are the consequences, we cannot foresee.
If we raise these issues, people blame us for creating the problem. But the problem exists, it is not us who invented it. It is very clear that as long as Vietnamese forces are not withdrawn, the Cambodian people will never accept this.
As long as Vietnamese settlers continue to plunder the land of the Cambodian people, the Cambodian people will never accept such a situation. Vietnam continues to occupy Cambodia through the regime they set up. At this point the western powers do not see this-the Vietnamese experts on overt and covert warfare in all fields continue to direct Phnom Penh.
We agree that the question of the Vietnamese settlers should be left for the new Cambodian government, after elections, to tackle.