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Column 47intended to make it clear that the situation in Cambodia has altered and that we do not support the Khmer Rouge in any way. They have been welcomed by Hanoi.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I am aware that these are difficult diplomatic issues. Does the Minister accept that to object to the credentials of the Government of Kampuchea presently represented at the United Nations would at least facilitate a debate on the matter, but would not necessarily precipitate a vote, with the adverse results that he anticipates?
As I said, the main thrust of British-Cambodian policy was laid down during the 1978-79 period and has been consistent ever since.
Our policy has been to secure the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from the country which they invaded and to allow the Cambodian people themselves to decide their own government. It seeks to prevent the return of the Khmer Rouge to power and to avoid providing legitimacy for a regime of former Khmer Rouge officers, originally imposed by Vietnamese bayonets. Since Vietnam has withdrawn its combat units, our policy has had some success, although the need for
self-determination for Cambodia and for arrangements which prevent the return of the Khmer Rouge remain as strong as ever.
Despite regular comdemnation by the international community at the United Nations over the past decade, it was not until this September that Vietnam finally decided to withdraw its combat units. We believe that this represents another result of Mr. Gorbachev's pragmatic and positive foreign policy. On 5 April 1989, in a tripartite declaration with Laos and the Phnom Penh regime, the Vietnamese Government announced their intention to withdraw their troops unconditionally by the end of September, while asserting the right to return if the need arises.
That announcement led to the courageous decision of the French Government to convene an international conference in Paris in August. The purpose was to put in place a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the problem, including an international control mechanism, before Vietnamese troops withdrew at the end of September. It was hoped that the withdrawal would then be internationally monitored.
The conference was a race against the Vietnamese deadline. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord Brabazon participated in that conference, which made a good start. French and Indonesian diplomacy persuaded all four Cambodian factions--that is, the Phnom Penh regime, the two non-Communist factions, and the Khmer Rouge--to sit down together at the same negotiating table behind one plaque entitled "Cambodia". That that was possible at all was also in large measure due to the efforts of Prince Sihanouk, still the only person in a position to claim widespread allegiance in Cambodia.
Column 48The Paris conference decided that the objective should be a comprehensive settlement. It therefore set up three working committees. The first was on a ceasefire and the operation of an effective international control mechanism to supervise and control the comprehensive implementation of a settlement. The second was to define the commitments of participating states to guarantee the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutrality of Cambodia, to ensure the cessation and non-recurrence of all foreign interference and external arms supplies and to prevent the recurrence of genocidal policies and practices--the return of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge--and the return of foreign interference--Vietnamese re-invasion.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : What evidence is there that, to use the Minister's words, Prince Sihanouk was the only person with widespread influence in Cambodia? Some of us who were there a long time ago doubted it then, and there is every reason to doubt it now.
Mr. Waldegrave : The phrase that I used was "widespread allegiance". The best evidence to give-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked a question, and perhaps he would like to hear the answer. The best evidence is to be found in the steps that led to the creation of that joint delegation in Paris. I do not believe that that would have come about without Prince Sihanouk's intervention, which showed that he still carries considerable influence. I can understand the hon. Gentleman's scepticism, but Prince Sihanouk is perhaps the best there is. The Paris conference decided that the objective should be a comprehensive settlement. The third of the three committees was to define the conditions that would enable refugees and displaced persons to return home if they so desired and to prepare the main elements of an international plan for the reconstruction of Cambodia. All those elements are necessary if settlement is to be truly comprehensive and not partial. Most encouraging of all was the agreement to create an ad hoc committee to examine questions concerning the implementation of national reconciliation and the setting up of a quadripartite interim authority under the leadership of Prince Sihanouk, with responsibility for organising
internationally supervised free elections within a reasonable period.
I draw the attention of the House to the crucial fact that the Foreign Ministers of all the participating nations, including Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union, as well as the United States and the ASEAN countries, agreed that the interim authority should be quadripartite--that is to say that it should include all four factions, including representatives of the Khmer Rouge and the former Khmer Rouge who constitute the Heng Samrin regime.
The basis for that general agreement--this is the heart of the Opposition's disagreement with our policy, although it is not an illogical policy and it is certainly not a dishonourable policy--was the judgment that, if a protracted civil war is to be avoided and if the settlement is to be durable, it would be better to include all the factions in the interim authority, rather than exclude the Khmer Rouge and risk its return to guerrilla warfare in the jungle.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then the Foreign Secretary, made it clear that the composition of the transitional arrangements was primarily a matter for the Cambodian leader to decide.
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has been asked a question of fact. Does he not have an obligation to the House to answer a question of fact?
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are talking about taxpayers' money. Surely the Minister cannot deny that that money is being used to fund the murderous Pol Pot.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you tell us whether the Minister's statement will preclude hon. Members from tabling further questions on the matter? Am I right in thinking that it will not preclude the Minister's appearing in front of the relevant Select Committee to answer--or not answer--similar questions?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : I do not have responsibility for the conduct of Select Committees. The hon. Gentleman asked about questions. Nothing that is said in a debate of itself precludes the tabling of questions, although other criteria may well influence it.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I thought that I had made it clear that this is not a point of order for me. I remind the House that there are a number of hon. Members waiting to take part in this brief debate.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : The Minister said that he could not answer, but he answered a similar question on Zimbabwe. Will he withdraw his remarks and say not, "I cannot answer," but, "I refuse to answer"?
Mr. Kaufman : So what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that there are special forces involved. If there were not special forces involved, he would be able to answer the question about military training.
Mr. Waldegrave : The right hon. Gentleman, with his slightly schoolboyish debating skills, tries to make a bogus point. The military training for the Zimbabwe army is not special forces training. We do plenty of open military training for friendly countries around the world. We have never ever commented on the role of the special forces
Column 50--either to say yes or to say no--and that remains the position just as it has been the position of Labour Governments.
My right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary made it clear that the composition of the transitional arrangements was primarily a matter for the Cambodian leaders to decide. But, he added, the international community
"has a duty to ensure that Cambodia is never again subjected to the degradation of the Pol Pot era. Through their action between 1975 and 1978, the Khmer Rouge must surely have forfeited any right to regain power."
The opening ministerial conference also agreed to send a United Nations fact finding team to establish whether a United Nations monitoring force could be deployed. It reported that this should be feasible, thus demonstrating that United Nations auspices could be established for a settlement, even though this issue too proved a major obstacle to agreement.
It is a source of profound regret that, despite these hopeful beginnings, one month later, when the second ministerial conference reconvened, the four Cambodian factions were further apart than they had been at the beginning. In particular, the Phnom Penh regime was not prepared to share power with the external Cambodian resistance in the transitional period before elections. Its position had hardened. The attempt at national reconciliation therefore foundered and a return to the battlefield became inevitable. It seemed that, once Vietnam decided that a partial solution was not on--that is to say, international credit for troop withdrawal but no more--it lost interest in the proceedings. Those countries directly concerned must bear a heavy responsibility for the failure, and I have in mind the leaderships in Phnom Penh and Hanoi as well as in Peking. It is their consciences which should be under the spotlight ; they are the centrally involved countries.
Agreement could have been possible if all concerned had shown the necessary flexibility. Up to the last moment, the French and Indonesian co-chairmen worked tirelessly for a political breakthrough. But it never came.
Even now, we refuse to renounce the hope that it will be possible to reconvene the Paris conference where so much useful work was done. We stand ready to play our part, for example, by participating in realistic international guarantees, if and when the conference is able to resume. It would, we are convinced, be a mistake at this juncture to abandon hope of a comprehensive and durable settlement, which we firmly believe to be the best way of keeping out the Khmer Rouge. That is why we continue to support that objective, as set out in the United Nations General Assembly resolution on the situation in Cambodia, which we shall co-sponsor.
Vietnam announced the final withdrawal of its forces from Cambodia on 26 September. Despite the absence of international verification, as the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said on 8 November, we accept that their combat units have been withdrawn, and we have reviewed the implementation of our objectives in light of these events.
I remind the House what my right hon. Friend said because in large measure it anticipates the Opposition motion over the United Nations and over humanitarian aid. He announced that we shall build up our humanitarian aid programme. We shall continue to provide substantial help to the many thousands of
Column 51Cambodians living in camps along the Thai- Cambodia border who have been made homeless by the years of fighting. We stipulate that none of our aid should reach the Khmer Rouge.
We shall now increase the humanitarian aid that we give inside Cambodia, while continuing to channel aid through non-governmental organisations and organisations such as UNICEF, and not direct to the Phnom Penh regime. As part of the policy, we propose to offer now a further contribution of £250,000 to UNICEF for humanitarian projects inside Cambodia. Arrangements will be made for a member of the British embassy in Bangkok to visit Phnom Penh soon to report on the situation at first hand. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will meet the heads of the non- governmental organisations tomorrow to discuss details. As I have already said, we have taken action to adapt our stance at the United Nations.
I should like to say a word about our policy towards Vietnam, which bears a heavy responsibility for the Cambodian tragedy. As I explained at the beginning, in 1979 the decision to cut off British aid was related to Vietnam's policies on human rights, the exodus of boat people and the Cambodian invasion.
In recognition of Vietnam's role, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear in Paris that
"we look to the Vietnamese Government to live up to its wider responsibilities--towards Cambodia, towards its neighbours and towards its own people. Only in these new circumstances is my Government prepared to consider contributing to programmes of assistance to help Vietnam."
The withdrawal of Vietnamese combat units from Cambodia is an important and welcome step. In the context of a comprehensive settlement, it could indeed be a decisive step towards Vietnam's international rehabilitation. But for that we need a negotiated settlement, not a trial of strength on the battlefield.
We also accept that the human rights situation in Vietnam has improved, despite the cold-war rhetoric of the seventh party plenum, with its outdated references to "capitalist encirclement". It is surely evidence of Vietnam's improved performance in that area that the screening of boat people in Hong Kong reveals that the vast bulk are not fleeing persecution, but simply seeking a better economic life. In one sense, that is encouraging.
But we still look to Vietnam to state clearly and unequivocally that it is prepared to accept back in safety and dignity all those who are screened out, in accordance with the responsibilities of states towards their own people. We welcome Vietnam's co-operation over the return of volunteers, 500 of whom have now gone back. We will go on working with our friends and partners for a sovereign and independent Cambodia whose people are free to decide their own future. That remains the overriding priority. We have never given, and will never give, support of any kind to the Khmer Rouge. There are new diplomatic ideas coming forward, for resuming the Paris conference, for a step-by-step approach, as proposed by the Thai Prime Minister, for an interim United Nations authority, as suggested by Congressman Solarz. We are considering these carefully, in the context of the forthcoming United Nations general asembly debate and its aftermath. A return to the negotiating table is becoming increasingly urgent.
Column 52We wish to see peace and stability restored to Cambodia through a comprehensive political settlement which will create the conditions in which the Cambodian people can elect a Government of their choice, free from the fear of Khmer Rouge atrocities, foreign occupation or civil war. In consultation with our friends and allies, notably the ASEAN group of countries, we will continue to work to this end. I do not believe that the Cambodian people would willingly choose either the murderous Khmer Rouge or the ex-Khmer Rouge which constitute the present regime in Phnom-Penh. What we need are free and fair elections to decide. Our diplomacy will be directed towards bringing them about.
Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber) : This afternoon, the Minister appeared to be a decent, fair-minded man who was landed with an awful brief. It may well be, as his historical chronology showed, that there is some continuity between this Government and the Labour Government of the 1970s, but none of his comments were any more relevant than that. I was saddened as I listened to him plough grimly through his speech, and I suspect that he was a bit sad himself--not least when he was struggling with questions about military training which were obviously right on the button. It must have been a very bad day for the Minister. This is a most appropriate time to have this debate. We are debating the subject not just because of the situation in Cambodia, but because of the hard work of Oxfam, the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and Christian Aid and because of John Pilger's television programme which had a tremendous effect on so many people and resulted in a remarkable number of people writing to hon. Members and to the Foreign Office.
I commend the Labour party for having this debate today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said during business questions last Thursday, we are very much at one with the Labour party on this issue. I commend the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) on his speech.
As the right hon. Member for Gorton said very clearly, there is a real and terrible risk that the Khmer Rouge could return to power. Those with expert, first-hand knowledge of Cambodia have warned of that for well over a year. For some reason that I do not understand, from the very start the Government and the Foreign Office have been unwilling to respond. There is some weird, deeply misguided, chess game of politics going on.
In that excellent book on Cambodia, "Punishing the Poor" by Eva Myslievisc, there is a startling quote from a member of the British embassy :
"Let's be realistic, it's only 6 million people."
That attitude is quite unacceptable to the people of this country. However, it seems to be the attitude that the Government are taking. I agree with the right hon. Member for Gorton that we cannot really understand the present situation without looking back to the Khmer Rouge's tyranny between 1976 and 1980. However, we must consider that. As we remember the fallen of two world wars, we must also accept that the Khmer Rouge were far more brutal and murderous than Hitler. We must consider the terror and damage in the killing fields among a population not much bigger than that of Greater London. One million people
Column 53were executed or were killed in other ways. There were 450 doctors in 1975, but only 45 remained in 1979. Schools, hospitals and the legal system were abolished. There was an extraordinary, savage madness. The idea that that should be allowed to return is appalling.
Presumably Conservative Members will support the Government if there is a Division. However, they must recall that the Khmer Rouge regime was brought to an end only through Vietnamese intervention. That is a fact. No hon. Member could put his hand on his heart and say that the Vietnamese were wrong to intervene and topple such a regime. In a rather extraordinary passage towards the end of his speech, the Minister said that somehow or other the Vietnamese had a heavy responsibility for Cambodia. For God's sake--they stopped the regime. That is the crucial point.
Mr. Mullin : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia took place the very week that Tanzania invaded Uganda, with western support, to put an end to the Idi Amin regime? Quite different things were said about that.
We must surely accept that ousting Pol Pot was justified. What possible justification is there for the continuing isolation of what is the de facto Government of Cambodia in Phnom Penh? Despite the long passage in the Minister's speech about that, in any other country we would by now have accepted reality and sent ambassadors. In response to questions, we would have said that of course that does not mean that we approve of the regime, but it is in control and that has always been our policy. I have heard that policy reiterated many times when hon. Members have asked for ambassadors to be withdrawn because they did not like a regime. The answer is always that the regime is in control and the Government do not express a view for or against it.
The only reason for non-recognition was the continuing presence of Vietnamese troops. The argument was that the regime was not the de facto Government because the Vietnamese were in control. That argument has disappeared : the rug has been pulled out from under it. The Government must change their position. It is extraordinary that on Wednesday we shall be prepared to continue to support the United Nations recommendation of that gentleman from the Khmer Rouge.
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South) : The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that on Wednesday we shall debate the recognition of the representative of democratic Kampuchea. That is not on the agenda for Wednesday. There is a substantive resolution on what attitude or action the United Nations should take.
Sir Russell Johnston : On Wednesday the Government will have the right to object to the credentials of the Khmer Rouge representative, and that can change their position. They can do that if they have the political will to do so. That point was also made by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton and it is crucial if the House is to influence what the Government do at the United Nations.
The recent so-called Paris peace conference did not succeed because the West made the profound error of pushing to have the Khmer Rouge accepted as part of an interim Government. That is unacceptable to the
Column 54remainder of Cambodians. I do not understand the Government's position and all the stuff about moderate Khmer Rouge participation. Who are the moderates and where are they? It is incredible nonsense and should be recognised as such. Lord Brabazon of Tara said that he did not know the names. The Minister and the Foreign Office have had time to produce the names of all those moderates.
If the Minister knows any moderate Khmer Rouge, hon. Members would be interested to hear of them. I certainly do not know any and those who work for Oxfam and other agencies in Cambodia do not know any, either.
Mrs. Mahon : I did not realise that I was being excitable. I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. About 10 days ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister asking who were the reasonable members of the Khmer Rouge. I have had a holding letter but no reply to date.
To put it bluntly, the Paris conference failed because of the West's insistence of Khmer Rouge participation. I respect the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He is a fair-minded and reasonable man. If the Government are serious about this matter, the best way forward is to establish links with the existing Phnom Penh Government and support a negotiated peace settlement based on free elections in which the Khmer Rouge play no part--no part whatever. The Khmer Rouge are not interested in free elections or fairness. Such an outcome could--I do not say will--lead to a more pluralist and neutral Cambodia. If the Government continue with their present policy, they may one day need to explain why the Khmer Rouge have again taken power by force.
Sir Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South) : I lived in Cambodia for two years, so I speak against the Khmer Rouge with as much feeling as any other hon. Member. I view with as much horror as any other hon. Member the possibility of the Khmer Rouge's return to greater influence. I speak also with a greater feel for the country and certainly a greater knowledge of its history than some hon. Members have.
During the speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) I questioned how much of the recent history of Cambodia he was familiar with. I regret that, once again, the right hon. Gentleman's paranoia about the United States seemed to dominate his speech. Conservative Members are familiar with Labour Members' paranoia about the United States. It often causes them to make foreign policy misjudgments. It was interesting that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention a group of countries that have had a much greater influence on the formation of this country's policy. I refer to ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations,
Column 55our European allies, our NATO allies and many other countries at the United Nations which agree with us. There are 74 United Nations countries, in addition to ourselves, sponsoring the resolution to be debated on Wednesday.
The right hon. Gentleman did not mention ASEAN at all. If an Opposition spokesman makes a major speech on this subject and does not mention ASEAN, he obviously does not know what he is talking about. That is patently obvious to anybody who knows the history of Cambodia or south-east Asia over the past 10 years. That is a fundamental condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The thought crossed my mind that the right hon. Gentleman might regard this issue simply as a convenient bandwagon on which to jump. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should recognise Hun Sen. He overlooked the fact that we do not now recognise any Governments. By implication the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), too, suggested that we should recognise the Hun Sen Government. He said that if such a situation had existed for 10 years in any other country we would have recognised the Government in control. I do not believe that we would have recognised a Government who had been put into power by force or by war and had never been exposed to a free election. That is not our tradition. My hon. Friend the Minister reminded us that the Conservative Government withdrew recognition from the Khmer Rouge in the days when we did recognise Governments or withdrew recognition from Governments, a practice which, as he explained, was changed in 1980.
The previous Labour Government declared that the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was unjustified. Border incidents provoked by the Khmer Rouge have been mentioned. No doubt they occurred, but they did not justify the Vietnamese action. I agree with what the Labour Government said at the time. It certainly did not justify an occupation which lasted 11 years, without an opportunity for the Cambodian people to express their wishes.
Sir Peter Blaker : I do not know whether there were 20,000 dead, but the Pol Pot regime certainly caused trouble on the border. What I have just said--perhaps the hon. Gentleman should listen--is that not only did the Vietnamese occupy the whole of Cambodia in an all-out war which was launched on, as I recall it, Christmas day 1978, but they stayed for 11 years. If it was a punitive expedition and if there was no intention of establishing a Vietnamese influence, having established their point by punishing the Pol Pot regime, why did not the Vietnamese give the people of Cambodia an opportunity to show how they wished to be governed?
Column 56"Any visitor to that country would tell you that whatever the natural dislike of the Cambodian people for their aggressive neighbours, the vast majority is far more horrified by the prospect of a return to power of the Khmer Rouge."
Does that mean nothing to the right hon. Gentleman?
Sir Peter Blaker rose --
Mr. Heffer : Before the right hon. Gentleman resumes his speech, I must point out that the Labour Government were wrong in what they said about the Vietnamese. Does what has happened, with the stopping of more than 2 million people--because 2 million people were killed--mean nothing at all to the right hon. Gentleman?
Sir Peter Blaker : I can only assume that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was not listening to the early part of my speech, because I started by saying that I feel the same abhorrence for what has happened as any hon. Member. For heaven's sake, I lived in Cambodia for two years--which I do not think that any other hon. Member has done--so I know about the Cambodian people and how agreeable they naturally are. I lived in that country with great pleasure for two years. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, he should first take care to have listened to the earlier part of the speech in which he wishes to intervene.
I suspect that one reason why the Opposition have chosen this debate is that we have recently seen on television another example of what I describe as "Pilgerisation"--[ Hon. Members :-- "Oh!"] Well, I know something of the facts of Cambodia--
Sir Peter Blaker : I know Cambodia from further back--for a longer period--than Mr. Pilger. To Pilgerise is to distort the real picture by a mixture of 50 per cent. fact, 25 per cent. omission of facts, and 25 per cent. innuendo. If anybody really believes that the true and dispassionate picture of Cambodia is that presented by Mr. Pilger's programmes, that person is sadly misled.
Sir Peter Blaker : Before coming to what I believe should be done, I want to put three points right. First--I do not believe that this has been mentioned so far--Vietnam is the hereditary enemy of Cambodia. Their relationship is as acrimonious historically as the relationship between any two countries of which one cares to think. The two countries are racially and culturally different. They are also different in religion and language. They have almost nothing in common. Their relationship is as acrimonious as that between India and Pakistan ; Iran and Iraq ; the Hutu and the Tuts ; Wanda and Burundi ; the Islamic people of Sudan and the Christian people of Sudan ; the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Although that is the sort of relationship about which we are talking, no one has mentioned that yet. That is the context in which one has to put the 11 years of Vietnamese occupation. It is not occupation by a friendly neighbour, it is occupation by the ancestral enemy.
Mr. Lester : While accepting that that is the historical position, may I ask my right hon. Friend to accept that for the people of Cambodia their relationship with Vietnam is considerably better than their relationship with the Pol Pot regime?
Sir Peter Blaker : I am assuming that hon. Members are intent not simply on scoring points, but on understanding the position. I accept that after Christmas day 1978, when Vietnam invaded and destroyed the Pol Pot regime, the position for most--nearly all--Cambodians was better than under the Pol Pot regime. I entirely support that proposition. I have never denied it. I am saying, first, that the Vietnamese invasion was condemned at the time by the Labour Government--