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Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : Has my right hon. Friend seen the absolutely amazing and excellent article by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)? It states :
"The main difference is that the Americans killed thousands of Cambodian civilians in their attempts to destroy
Column 38North Vietnamese supply lines whereas the Vietnamese invasion ended the systematic murder of Cambodians by their own government'."
Mr. Kaufman : Yes, I have seen that article. I thought that it was an outstanding contribution to the discussion, and I am only sorry that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), no doubt because of other pressing engagements, cannot be here to express the same sentiments.
That would be particularly valuable because while the United States and China are at one in opposing a sensible solution for Cambodia, other Governments have allowed themselves to be dragged along by the White House and the State Department. I am sorry to say that the British Government are one of those Governments.
The extent to which British Government policy is dictated by the State Department can best be gauged from a speech on Cambodia made in the House on 21 January last year by the former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar). I reread that speech at the weekend. After nearly two years and in the light of changing events, I found it deeply obnoxious. Speaking of the Hun Sen regime, he said : "Without the presence of massive Vietnamese forces, the regime simply would not exist."
The Vietnamese forces have been withdrawn from Cambodia and the regime still exists. The hon. Gentleman continued, in squalid and sneering language :
"We cannot accept that at this time we should give development assistance to a regime which depends for its very existence on Vietnamese occupying forces. We cannot allow Vietnam to bankroll its oppression of Cambodia with western aid."--[ Official Report, 21 January 1988 ; Vol. 125, col. 1225.]
The Vietnamese forces are gone, but for Cambodia there is still no British development assistance and still no western aid. To justify this, the Government have now changed their rationale. Last month, the Minister for Overseas Development said :
"We remain convinced that our policy of not offering direct Government to Government aid to the Heng Samrin regime in Phnom Penh is right in present circumstances. We have no wish to sustain an unrepresentative regime spawned by the illegal Vietnemese occupation."
Once again, Vietnam, rather than the needs and the plight of Cambodia, is dominating Government policy.
Let us be clear. The suffering people of Cambodia are being punished for the American defeat in Vietnam. Led by the United States, with Britain as a compliant follower, the world community has blacklisted Cambodia. The result for that poverty-stricken land has been not only terrible suffering but a reverse in the progress that was being made in combating disease and deprivation. Children are dying in Cambodia from diarrhoea and other diseases in terrifying numbers. They die, among other reasons, because of the dreadful state of the water supply. Aid could help to improve the water supply yet, inexcusably, Cambodia is the only country in the world to be denied United Nations development aid.
In a recent leading article, The Times said :
"Now that that invasion"--
the Vietnamese invasion--
"is at an end--so long as it is not perpetuated by proxy--there is no reason why generous aid for humanitarian projects or to assist Vietnam's incipient economic reform should not begin."
The Times is right in its argument, but mistaken in its conclusion, because there is, unfortunately, a valid reason why such aid is not provided by the United Nations. It is
Column 39because Cambodia is represented at the United Nations not by the Government who hold power but by the exiled opposition, the so-called coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea. The United Nations delegate of that bogus organisation, Thiounn Prasith, was a close adviser of Pol Pot during his years in Government, and is still a crony of Pol Pot's.
An avowed representative of the Khmer Rouge has been put into the United Nations by other countries as the representative of Cambodia, when he does not represent Cambodia at all. His presence at the United Nations misrepresents Cambodia but gives an international validity to the Khmer Rouge and allows it to influence United Nations policy and international attitudes to Cambodia.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to his being a member of the Khmer Rouge, three of Thiounn Prasith's brothers held three of the 10 posts in the Pol Pot regime's Government between 1975 and 1979? That family above all is connected with what happened at that time.
Mr. Kaufman : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for placing that on the record. He, like others of my right hon. and hon. Friends, has a long, honourable and constructive record of fighting on this issue. In a curious and opaque written answer to a question tabled by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) last week, the Foreign Secretary--the right hon. Gentleman has explained to me why he cannot be here today--stated :
"The report of the UN credentials committee again recommended acceptance of credentials of Democratic Kampuchea for the Cambodian seat and was approved without a vote."--[ Official Report, 8 November 1989 ; Vol. 159, c. 645. ]
The Foreign Secretary did not explain why there was no vote. He did not explain why the British Government did not vote against the seating of a Pol Pot crony as a representative of Cambodia at the United Nations. I regret to say that the Government have an odd and equivocal attitude towards the Khmer Rouge. The Prime Minister and others assert that they never wish to see Pol Pot back in power in Cambodia, but it is deplorable that the Government are shifting in their attitude towards the Khmer Rouge.
Last year, during a television interview, the Prime Minister was asked about the Khmer Rouge. The right hon. Lady stated : "There is a much more reasonable grouping within the Khmer Rouge." When asked to amplify that statement, she said :
"That is what I am assured by people who know, so that you will find that the more reasonable ones in the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in a future Government."
It is a matter for concern to us all to discover who these "reasonable" ones in the Khmer Rouge, as cited by the Prime Minister, may be.
In a television programme two weeks ago--a programme which produced an enormous response from the public, as every hon. Member knows from his or her postbag--John Pilger tried to find the answer to the question that must follow the Prime Minister's statement. He put the question to the responsible Minister from the
Column 40Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Brabazon of Tara. In a singular and bizarre interview, Lord Brabazon replied,
"I don't know their names."
He continued :
"Well, there are obviously some more reasonable than others." He could not say who they are. All the same, the Government continued to recommend that the Khmer Rouge should be included in the Cambodian Government.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing document reads : "To exclude the Khmer Rouge completely from the transitional process could have the effect that we all want to avoid. It might drive their still powerful army into guerrrilla warfare." Where are these people living? The "still powerful army" of the Khmer Rouge is involved in guerrilla warfare. It is involved in the invasion of Cambodia from Thailand. It dominates the armies that are invading Cambodia. The Government continue to say, however, that the Khmer Rouge should be part of Cambodia's Government.
Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian) : My right hon. Friend presents a powerful indictment of the Government. Does he recall that last week I asked the Prime Minister whether she felt happy that the Foreign Secretary was sitting next to Pol Pot representatives, and that the right hon. Lady refused to answer?
Mr. Kaufman : I well recall that intervention by my hon. Friend, because I thought that the Prime Minister would try to respond to the valid and important point he raised. But instead, she made a cheap joke which demonstrated once again, as did the intervention by the hon. Member for Northampton, North before today's debate began, that the killing, suffering, ordeal and plight of Cambodia matter little to some members of the Government and to the Conservative party. The latest pronouncement on the subject was made on 1 November by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), who I understand is to speak next, when he replied to an Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Broxtowe. In that notorious speech, the Minister announced :
"I have only two minutes to devote to Cambodia."
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave) : Before this becomes a legend--the hon. Member for CynonValley, (Mrs. Clwyd) will remember this--the right hon. Gentleman will recall that there are 30 minutes for Adjournment debates. My hon. Friend the member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) spoke for his full time and then there was an intervention from the hon. Member for Cynon Valley leaving me only four minutes in which to reply.
Mr. Kaufman : I read the debate in full. I recognise that the Minister had little enough time to reply, but instead of reading from his brief, he might have rejigged his speech to deal with what is a paramount issue in the House.
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe) : It is very unfair for the right hon. Gentleman to charge my hon. Friend the Minister with any discourtesy. He tried enormously hard in a very short time to fulfil his requirement. My hon. Friend had flown in from Washington the night before. In those circumstances, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley
Column 41(Mrs. Clwyd) and I felt that it was more important to get on record our concerns than to get a reply which I hope we shall get today.
"Absorption of some part of the Khmer Rouge movement might diminish the power of the rest of the movement".
He went on to advocate
"the attempt to include some part of the Khmer Rouge movement--but not the Pol Pot supporters--in a future Government."--[ Official Report, 1 November 1989 ; Vol. 159, c. 444.]
So in his two minutes the Minister managed to cram in a recommendation that the Khmer Rouge should be part of the Cambodian Government.
What it all comes back to is that the Government, without the Prime Minister or any other Minister being able to specify or name those reasonable members of the Khmer Rouge, are ready to advocate Khmer Rouge membership of a Cambodian Government. Let us be clear that their objective is to get rid of the present Cambodian Government. Their explanation is simple--they claim that that Government are in power only because they are propped up by Vietnamese forces. There are no Vietnamese troops in Cambodia, yet there are Khmer Rouge troops, who the Foreign and Commonwealth Office readily admits are a powerful army and whose flag flies at the United Nations because no country opposes the Khmer Rouge delegate there and because each year Britain and other countries support the continued efforts of the Khmer Rouge and its allies to take over power in Cambodia. In a speech in the House last year, the hon. Member for Enfield, North described the Government's stance as
"a ringing endorsement of the rights of the Cambodian people."--[ Official Report, 21 January 1988 ; Vol. 125, c. 1225.]
That was his description of the United Nations' annual debate on Cambodia, but every year the United Nations once again endorsed the Khmer Rouge representative as the alleged representative of Cambodia.
If Jane's Defence Weekly is anything to go by, another ringing endorsement of the rights of the Cambodian people by the Government is the provision of training by British forces for troops fighting alongside the Khmer Rouge to overturn the present Government of Cambodia. Jane's Defence Weekly says that that has been going on for four years. When the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister were asked about that on Thursday 2 November in the House of Commons, they dodged the question eight times. The deputy Prime Minister said that it was not the practice to give details of training by British special forces of foreign troops.
The Government cannot hide behind that formula any longer. Only last year, the Prime Minister boasted about British forces training Zimbabwean troops. On 19 July, she said that such training was "greatly appreciated." If that information can be given about training Zimbabwean troops, it must be given about training Cambodian troops. Unless the Minister states unequivocally this afternoon that British service men have not been training Cambodian forces, we shall take it, by his silence or lack of response, that those authoritative allegations are true. We shall have to proceed in the knowledge that the Government are taking positive steps to subvert by force the present regime
Column 42in Cambodia by assisting fighting men who are part of an army dominated by what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls the "powerful army of the Khmer Rouge."
As the Financial Times stated recently in a leading article, "the Khmer Rouge remains a force to be reckoned with in Cambodia--and one even given a kind of legitimacy by Western Governments."
The Government provide that legitimacy by training troops allied to the Khmer Rouge and by co-sponsoring at the United Nations a resolution which, unless it is changed radically as a result of the Foreign Secretary's announcement last week, speaks of the "continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean forces under the leadership of Samdech Norodom Sihanouk to achieve the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral and non-aligned status of Kampuchea."
That is to be attained by legitimising forces dominated by the Khmer Rouge.
As The Times stated in a leading article this month,
"power sharing is simply not in the Khmer Rouge vocabulary, except as a back door route to ultimate and absolute control."
The Government are conniving in the ultimate and absolute control of Cambodia by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
The Labour party advocates a complete change of policy by the British Government. We believe that they should not continue to co-sponsor the resolution that is before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. I have been notified of a change to the draft resolution. The great alteration that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced to the House in answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe amounts to the changing of two or three odd words. The phrase
"continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean forces" is changed to
"the continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean people." What is that cosmetic alteration meant to prove? What struggle is there against the present Cambodian Government other than the armed struggle by the Khmer Rouge? It is a piece of sophistry by the Government to believe that, by changing that word, or one or two others, in the resolution, they can delude us into believing that they are changing their policy.
The Government should abandon their sponsorship of that resolution. I understand that the Swedish Government have done so, and I hope that other Governments are considering doing so.
What is more, we believe that the British Government's support should be withdrawn from the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea and from Prince Sihanouk unless he repudiates any connection with the Khmer Rouge and rids his so-called coalition of the Khmer Rouge. We believe, with The Times, that the Government should consider recognising the Hun Sen Government. On 2 November, The Times said :
"There is a case for shortcircuiting the niceties of diplomacy, and recognising the Phnom Penh regime without waiting for a comprehensive political solution. Mr. Hun Sen's government is not a pleasant one. It holds political prisoners and has little time for free speech and multi party-politics. But it has begun religious and economic reforms, encouraging private businesses and allowing farmers to own their land. It has adopted a policy of non-alignment, and it would no longer be accurate to dismiss Mr. Hun Sen as Hanoi's puppet." The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made precisely the same point in his important article in The
Column 43Guardian today. It is about time that the Government stopped being a victim of the United States' delusion about Vietnam and acted for themselves properly and sensibly on this issue.
We believe that, from the starting point of recognition today of the existing Government in Phnom Penh, Britain should end its part in the inexcusable aid boycott of Cambodia. There is reason to believe that, despite the Foreign Secretary's claim last week in answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe--
"We stipulate that none of our aid should reach the Khmer Rouge."--[ Official Report, 8 November 1989, Vol. 159, c. 645. ]--
such aid as is at present intended for Cambodians living in the camps along the Thai-Cambodian border may get into the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The Foreign Secretary announced in his answer that there would be some direct aid to Cambodia, but we believe that British aid for Cambodia should be substantially increased and should go into Cambodia on a large scale to alleviate the terrible suffering of the people of that country. What the Foreign Secretary offered last week is completely inadequate to meet the scale of the need. Once again, it is governed by an obsession with the nature of the Government in Phnom Penh compared with that which is to replace them, and which the Government are assisting.
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion) : In an otherwise powerful speech, which I very much respect, the right hon. Gentleman has not yet touched on the Paris conference, where all these matters were discussed at great length, nor has he attempted to say where responsibility lies for the failure of that conference.
Mr. Kaufman : As the right hon. Gentleman properly points out, the Paris conference was a failure. It was a failure because many of the main parties to it started from the clear assumption that they could not accept the Government in Phnom Penh and somehow had to get involved with the ragbag coalition behind Prince Sihanouk. Until we move away from that posture, which is invalid and unacceptable, there will be no progress towards settlement in Cambodia.
We believe that the Government should start the process which we have recommended the day after tomorrow in New York, when the United Nations debates Cambodia. The Government cannot attempt to convince anybody in the House who has studied these matters carefully that the cosmetic alteration to the resolution will begin to meet the needs of the situation. The Government should even now challenge the presence at the United Nations of the Khmer Rouge delegate. It is open to them to do so if they wish. They can, if they wish, call for a vote on the seating of the Cambodian delegate. They can, if they wish, demand that any resolution that they co- sponsor should call for the seating of the Khmer Rouge representative to be reviewed in the light of the Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia.
The Times, in its leading article on 2 November, said that, directly and indirectly, the British Government, with other Governments, were helping to make possible the return to power in Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge. It pointed out :
Column 44"The Khmer Rouge when in power depopulated the towns, and systematically starved and murdered thier countrymen. The absolute priority is to deprive them of a second opportunity."
Let us make no mistake: any country that directly or indirectly helps to make possible the return of the Khmer Rouge to power in Cambodia is colluding in a repetition of the atrocities in Cambodia which have added new words to the world's political dictionary and which are branded on the minds and consciences of millions throughout the world, including many British people. We speak this evening for those millions in urging a change of British Government policy on Cambodia. If the Minister does not announce such a change, we shall tonight not only speak for the millions who care, but register our votes for them.
welcomes the Government's consistent refusal to give support to either the PRK or the murderous Khmer Rouge ; commends its commitment to finding a peaceful and comprehensive settlement endorsed by the Cambodian people ; and welcomes the increased assistance which the Government is providing for the innocent victims of this tragic conflict.'.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was eloquent, and no one doubts the genuine care and passion that have gone into it.
I genuinely welcome this debate, because this is a difficult and important subject. It is a welcome opportunity to describe in detail the consistency of British Government policy, both under the present and the preceding Labour Administrations, in condemning the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, in refusing to have dealings with the Phnom Penh regime or to support the Khmer Rouge in any way and in a steady commitment to a sovereign, independent, neutral Cambodia, with the Cambodian people deciding their own future through free and fair elections.
We are witnessing the collapse of worldwide Communism. Regional conflicts, such as Cambodia and Afghanistan, should be soluble on the basis that the long-suffering people themselves decide under which form of government they want to live. That is our policy, and doubtless that of the Opposition as well.
The Opposition motion concentrates heavily and rightly on the paramount need--
Mr. Heffer : This is an important point. The Minister said that the Government had never given support to the Khmer Rouge, but have the Government ever challenged the credentials of those who sit in the United Nations and who are known to be Khmer Rouge?
If the motion had said simply that it was intolerable to support the Khmer Rouge, there would have been no
Column 45problem about accepting it. Let us be clear at the outset that the Khmer Rouge is a particularly evil mutation of Communism and Pol Pot a particularly evil man.
The Khmer Rouge was helped to power in 1975 by the then North Vietnam. From 1975 to 1978, the Vietnamese leadership repeatedly praised the Khmer Rouge and its
"precious assistance to the revolutionary cause",
and attacked the West and the United States for slandering the regime. That was done while mass murder was being committed. Also during that terrible period, there were those in the West who chose to be silent about what was going on inside Cambodia and who denounced atrocity reports as American fabrications, aimed at ex post facto justification of United States involvement in the Vietnam war. One such was the ineffable Professor Noam Chomsky. Such people, including journalists, are not well placed to lead moral crusades, least of all against the West, when it might stimulate us to look back at what they were writing at the time.
The attitude of the then Labour Government to the murderous Pol Pot regime was stated by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Evan Luard, on 30 March 1977 in reply to a Conservative Member's request that the large-scale slaughter in Cambodia should be raised in the Security Council. Mr. Luard replied :
"With regard to Cambodia, however much we may deplore the situation there, it is clear that this is primarily a domestic matter, and, therefore, not a matter for the United Nations."--[ Official Report, 30 March 1977 : Vol. 929, c. 379.]
Nevertheless, that attitude, happily, soon changed. In 1978, the British Government took the lead in raising the situation in Cambodia at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and called for an inquiry.
At the end of 1978, following an increasingly anti-Vietnamese line by the Pol Pot regime, the Vietnamese invaded. The Soviet Union vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia in the wake of that invasion.
Mr. Mullin : The Minister missed out a small matter in his history of the conflict. The Vietnamese invasion was not unprovoked. It followed attacks by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge on border provinces, in which perhaps 20,000 men, women and children were horribly butchered. There were similar attacks on and around the border of Thailand, but we choose to forget that. In addition, several hundred thousand refugees fled Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime, so terrible was life there. Whether the Vietnamese invasion was right or wrong, we should not ignore the reasons for it.
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. Perhaps I made an understatement when I said that the Khmer Rouge took an increasingly anti-Vietnamese line. There were serious attacks by the Khmer Rouge on Vietnam.
When the people's army of Vietnam had overrun the country, its tanks were only a matter of hours from Bangkok. Naturally, Thailand and its friends and allies were alarmed. As I am sure the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) will agree--indeed, he has just confirmed it--the Vietnamese invaded for strategic reasons. As Thailand's Foreign Minister, Nguyen Co Thach, later told Congressman Solarz :
"Human rights was not a question ; that was their problem ... We were concerned only with security."
Column 46The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Evan Luard, stated on 21 March 1979 :
"I do not think that two wrongs make a right. Therefore, however bad the human rights situation was in Cambodia, I do not think that it excuses an almost equally bad situation in Vietnam. It does not excuse an attack by Vietnam on Cambodia."--[ Official Report, 21 March 1979 ; Vol. 964, c. 1479.]
The Minister of State, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred to "one dictatorship imposed upon another."--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 14 February, 1979, Vol. 398 c. 1385.]
At the same time, the Government decided to terminate most aid to Vietnam. Mr. Luard stated :
"since 1978 Vietnamese policies on human rights, over the exodus of boat refugees and in relation to Cambodia have caused us increasing concern Because of our concern about recent developments in Vietnamese policy we have cancelled most of this aid."--[ Official Report, 21 March 1979 ; Vol. 964, c. 1478.]--
that is, bilateral aid. We continued the same policy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirmed that on 3 July 1979, when she stated :
"There will be no more aid to Vietnam so long as the present circumstances continue."--[ Official Report, 3 July 1979 ; Vol. 969, c. 1117.]
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South raised the often misunderstood question of the recognition of Governments and of credentials. Since 1980, Britain has recognised states, not Governments. One advantage of that is that we do not have to judge between competing claimants in circumstances of civil war or conflict. But in 1979, the position was different. Our criterion then for recognition of a Government was whether or not it had effective control over the greater part of the country. That was not a moral criterion, simply a descriptive criterion, and it led us to abandon recognition of the Khmer Rouge Government in 1979.
As we now recognise states, not Governments, our only judgment is whether there is a Government within a country with which we are able to deal. Obviously the extent of that Government's ability of themselves to control their territory, will be one consideration. So will the assessment of British interests. At present, we recognise no Government in Cambodia.
There is also the separate issue of Cambodian credentials at the United Nations, which is mentioned in the motion. It is clear that the credentials committee could find no technical or legal reason for debarring the Cambodian delegation from this year's General Assembly. It is equally clear that, if there had been a vote in the General Assembly, the so-called coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea would have won it overwhelmingly. This has not, therefore, been the most profitable pressure point on which to concentrate.
As I have said, neither our recognition of the reality of the situation, nor any other action of ours implies recognition of the coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea or any other party as the legitimate Government in Cambodia. A dispute over credentials might also have split the unity of the Association of South-East Asian Nations which we hoped would be the principal vehicle for diplomatic progress towards a settlement in Cambodia.
We are adopting our stance at the United Nations. We have taken action with our friends and partners to modify the draft resolution which we, with 74 other member states, are co-sponsoring at the United Nations General Assembly in the debate on 15 November. The changes are