|Previous Section||Home Page|
Sir Peter Blaker : I accept that many Opposition Members think that what the Labour Government did was wrong. They think that lots of things that the Labour Government did in office were wrong. It is an entertaining experience to watch them--
Sir Peter Blaker : It was not necessary for Vietnam to remain in occupation of Cambodia for 11 years with large forces and, knowing the relationship between the two countries, to give the people of Cambodia--
Mr. Heffer rose --
Sir Peter Blaker : No, I shall not give way at the moment. Knowing the ancestral ambitions of Vietnam, which, during the entire 19th century, was gradually nibbling away at Cambodian territory--as Thailand was from the other side--it should have been Vietnamese policy, if Vietnam was genuinely peace-loving and had the interests of the Cambodian people at heart, to give them the opportunity of freely deciding by what Government they should be ruled.
Mr. Wareing : Surely the events of the past few weeks justify the period of that occupation by the Vietnamese, because, when the Vietnamese withdrew, the Khmer Rouge invaded. Indeed, they have already occupied the town of Pailin--there are reports of 17,000 people killed in that part of the world--and are now approaching Battambang, which is the second largest town in Cambodia. Unless there is some international action, there will be a return of Pol Pot, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to be justifying.
Sir Peter Blaker : I can only assume that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) is not listening to my speech either. I wish that Opposition Members would listen to what I am actually saying as opposed to what they think I am saying or what they would like me to be saying. That is not what I was saying.
Sir Peter Blaker : I will come--if I am allowed to--to some proposals about what should be done. Meanwhile, I repeat that Britain has not been alone in the policy that it has followed during the past 11 years.
My second point is that, after the Vietnamese invasion we were urged, as were our friends and allies in Europe and the United States, by the countries of ASEAN, next door to Vietnam and Cambodia, to adopt the policy to which we eventually agreed--that is, to reject the credentials of the Vietnamese-installed regime at the United Nations and to insist that Vietnam should withdraw from Cambodia. That urging was not from the United States, it was from the people of ASEAN : the south-east Asian nations, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and subsequently Brunei. They were extremely nervous about Vietnam which, after all, only a few years earlier had won the Vietnam war in which North Vietnam was the aggressor. The Vietnamese had by far the largest army in that part of the world--an extremely powerful army. There would have been great alarm in ASEAN if we had adopted any other course. Indeed, that course was adopted by most of the free world.
To assume that the United States policy is one of revenge against Vietnam and to assume that, along with the other 74 countries at the United Nations which share our view, we have tamely followed the wishes of the United States, is wholly to mislead oneself. The policy was motivated by a refusal to recognise aggression, and it was urged on us and other like-minded countries especially by the friendly countries of south-east Asia. Our action had the successful effect of stabilising south-east Asia during a dangerous time.
My third point relates to Prince Sihanouk. When I was in Cambodia in the 1950s, Prince Sihanouk, who had been king, but abdicated because he wanted to become Prime Minister, ran for election. I observed the election of 1955 on behalf of the British Government and it was the first election to be conducted after independence was declared in 1954. In the judgment of all the observers, including not only our embassy of which I was a member, but the international control commission, consisting of Poland, Canada, and India, that election was fair. Sihanouk emerged as the victor with an enormous margin. It is no exaggeration to say that the people of Cambodia regarded him as something close to God.
Since the 1955 election, things have changed. Sihanouk has frequently made statements that have been regarded, understandably, as eccentric. It is my guess, however, that if a free election were conducted again, any party led by Sihanouk would win with a substantial majority. The way to find out would be to arrange for a properly conducted, internationally supervised, free election. The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton was extremely thin regarding his own proposals.
Sihanouk is no friend of the Khmer Rouge. I believe that five of his children and many of his grandchildren were killed by the Khmer Rouge, and he was imprisoned by it. He has no reason to love the Khmer Rouge. Sihanouk's forces, which, unfortunately, are less numerous than the forces of the Khmer Rouge, are separate from them. The so-called coalition between the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk and Son San does not represent one army controlled by the Khmer Rouge--there are three armies fighting in three locations. If Sihanouk and Son San believe that it would be right to have an interim
Column 59Government to prepare for elections, in which part of the Khmer Rouge would be included, Opposition Members should attach importance to that view.
I also believe that it would be legitimate for the British Government, and for other Governments who want Cambodia restored to freedom, to support Sihanouk. Among other things, that support would strengthen him against the Khmer Rouge.
Mr. Simon Hughes : Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the coalition is dominated diplomatically, politically, militarily, and legally by the Khmer Rouge? That is the problem with recognising that coalition-- the dominant partner is the Khmer Rouge.
One of the problems is China. The Chinese Government have been the principal supporter of the Khmer Rouge. A few months ago there were signs that China was prepared to change that policy. Chinese spokesmen have told me that the Khmer Rouge have made blunders--a strong statement coming from the Chinese. I do not know the present Chinese posture nor whether it has changed since the events of 4 June. When my right hon. Friend replies to this debate, I would be interested to know whether there is any information about the current Chinese attitude. One of the keys to resolving this extremely difficult problem would be for China to stop helping the Khmer Rouge.
What should be our course of action? We are right to aim for a comprehensive settlement, and that was something that the recent Paris conference hoped to achieve. That settlement should involve United Nations verification that the Vietnamese forces have withdrawn. An interim Government should be established to prepare for the elections. It is not satisfactory for the Hun Sen Government alone to prepare those elections as I do not believe that the rest of the world would have confidence in their freedom. The elections should be supervised by the United Nations. When the comprehensive settlement has been achieved, the incoming Government should receive large-scale economic assistance from all aid donors.
We cannot tell who would win such an election as the situation has changed enormously in the past 15 years. Perhaps the scepticism displayed by Opposition Members towards Sihanouk is justified--I do not know. The only way to find out is to hold such an election. I doubt very much, however, that the victor would be Hun Sen. Unlike the right hon. Member for Gorton and the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) I do not believe that it is sufficiently established that Hun Sen is the acceptable Head of Government for the Cambodian people. There are strong suggestions that all the Vietnamese forces have left, but we cannot assume that that is correct. That withdrawal requires verification, especially as the Chinese have said that they will withdraw support from the Khmer Rouge once they are satisfied that the Vietnamese forces have left. The Labour party has initiated this debate with inadequate understanding of the history of Cambodia or of the factors that influenced our Government, in common with 74 other Governments, to adopt their present policy.
Column 60That policy is right, but I also believe that the Government have been right recently to shift it in a more positive direction. No doubt we shall continue to assess what the next step should be. We should work as hard as we can for the resumption of a comprehensive conference leading towards a comprehensive settlement.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : I assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall be brief, as I know that a number of my hon. Friends want to participate. I believe that my hon. Friends' contributions will represent a much more accurate reflection of the situation in south-east Asia than that presented by the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker). It is relevant that the only date he could mention when he had been in the area was in the mid-1950s. His speech reminded me of someone harking back to those old colonial days of the 1950s. I hope that some of my hon. Friends, who have had much more up-to-date experience than the right hon. Gentleman, can contribute to the debate.
The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South attacked the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). The right hon. Gentleman suggested that my right hon. Friend had omitted to mention a number of things. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) will rectify that when she replies.
What my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton was trying to make clear, not only on behalf of the Labour Party, but on behalf of the other opposition parties, and even some Conservative Members, was the absolute abhorrence among our people of the way in which the British Government are deliberately distorting our position in the United Nations and other world bodies as it relates to Cambodia. I am sure that, when we read the speeches in Hansard, even the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South will have cause to regret some of the things he said, especially when he reads the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton.
Some of the right hon. Gentleman's comments were incredible. He said that, when the Vietnamese forces invaded Kampuchea, as it was then known, they destroyed Pol Pot. That is nonsense, and I hope that it is the last piece of nonsense we hear in the debate. They managed to drag Pol Pot from Kampuchea across the border into Thailand, where the regime was sustained by the same forces who are trying to justify that sustenance today in the Chamber. From the camps, the Pol Pot regime continued a policy of genocide against the Cambodians, both in the camps and in Cambodia by incursions across the Thai border. We should remind ourselves that it was the deliberate intention of the Pol Pot regime to remove the intellectuals from the infrastructure of Kampuchea. That caused the problems, which meant that the Vietnamese had to stay in that country until the Cambodians thought it was important for them to withdraw. By the policy of genocide, the regine removed a whole stratum of doctors, academics and other educated and intelligent professionals who would have been required to rebuild Cambodia. The
Column 61removal of that stratum resulted in the problems with which Cambodia is still struggling. The Government have neither given nor offered aid to Cambodia that would make up for the removal of that stratum, and it is not as if we do not have the facilities or the people power to have given that type of support.
It is important that we remind ourselves of the comments made by the aid organisations in Cambodia. Frank Judd, the director of Oxfam, described the British Government's policy as "naive". At the end of the debate, the House will share that view. It is naive for the British Government to suppose that military training and aid given to the camps will not help the Khmer Rouge. He compares the British Government's policy of not giving aid inside Cambodia to that of the British people who are donating generously and willingly to the aid organisations working in that country.
On Friday, Mr. Derek Lietch, a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), stood in Dundee high street and within two hours had gathered 150 signatures on a petition which simply said that there should be an end to British Government support for the Khmer forces in Cambodia. If people were to go on to the streets outside the House or in any constituency, they would have no difficulty in achieving more than 150 signatures opposing the British Government's present proposals for Cambodia.
If the Minister has a chance to talk to her right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary before she replies to the debate, she might be able to tell me what response he intends to send to the philosophy department at Dundee university. On 7 November, a letter signed by the entire department was sent to the right hon. Gentleman making clear its concern for the plight of the civilian population in Cambodia and its horror and incredulity that we should co-sponsor a resolution in the United Nations that would ultimately leave the Khmer Rouge with some form of control in Cambodia.
During this short debate, it would be wrong not to speak of some of the other problems that need to be dealt with if there is to be a realistic end to the problems faced by the Cambodian people and the whole of the south- east peninsula. We should address ourselves not only to Cambodia but to Vietnam.
There has been reference to the Paris peace conferences. The Paris peace conference that failed in August this year was important for the forces in Cambodia. In the peace talks of 1973, the United States Government agreed to pay $3.2 billion to the Vietnamese people for the war of attrition that was launched against them. Not one cent of that money has been paid to a country that suffered considerable war damage and experienced the first large-scale use of herbicidal warfare. Over 41 million lb of agent orange were dropped on the Vietnamese people between 1961 and 1971. The damage can still be seen among the Vietnamese people and in the defoliation.
The United States and British Governments have made no effort to help the Vietnamese people, despite the fact that the Vietnamese have said that they are prepared to discuss--particularly with the United States Government-- ways in which they could be involved in the rebuilding of Vietnam. Only with the economic aid that is dearly required for Vietnam and Cambodia will there be an end to the problems in that area.
Many Opposition Members wish to contribute to the debate, and I am sure that, if they catch your eye, Mr.
Column 62Deputy Speaker, we shall hear their experiences of visits to Cambodia and Vietnam. They will be able to tell the House about the determination of the Cambodian and Vietnamese people to live peacefully with their neighbours, if they are allowed. They will not be able to live in peace if we are party to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge being allowed back into Cambodia.
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe) : I disagree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who said that this is not a matter of grave urgency. It is a matter of international concern and of profound public concern in this and other countries. As the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, I initiated an Adjournment debate on 1 November. In that debate I pressed for a major debate on this part of the world and I welcome the fact that the Opposition have provided that opportunity.
It is now time for statesmanship of high order. The House should pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker), who has had a profound interest in the subject for many years. Those of us who have followed the matter realise that the position is changing fast. I welcomed my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's reply to me in his statement. However, we need to consider the matter in reverse order to the way that he put it. The first and most critical matter is the United Nations debate on the resolution. Within its five pages, the changes are minimal and insufficient to fulfil the statement to me that it would reflect the changing position.
I remain concerned that our attitude is one of high risk : our ambivalence over our support for Prince Sihanouk and the Cambodian people leaves open the risk that the Khmer Rouge military could return as a result of the civil war. I suspect that, within the American Administration, and--as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South said--the Association of the South-East Asian Nations, there are many different views. One has only to witness what the Thai Prime Minister is trying to do to recognise that. I suspect that the same applies to our European partners. We should look carefully at our policies and statements at all times.
I shall ask a straightforward question about this resolution of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench : what would our policy be if Prince Sihanouk resigned tomorrow? He has resigned more than once from different posts. What would our policy be if we built it entirely on Prince Sihanouk? I recognise the worries and tribulations which he has suffered. I have read his book, and it would be a good thing if others read it. His book was written in French and has not been translated into English. I understand the man, what he feels about the Khmer Rouge and the interim period in which he was, and I believe remains, a puppet.
Prince Sihanouk is not the vehicle for a settlement in Kampuchea. He is a creature of China and less independent than Hun Sen, who has often been accused of being a creature of the Vietnamese. However, I know, because I have discussed with Hun Sen, the 100 hours of negotiation which he had with Prince Sihanouk in an effort to bring him back into the Government and reconcile him with the Kampuchean people.
Prince Sihanouk demanded various things, such as a new flag, a return to calling the nation Cambodia instead
Column 63of Kampuchea, and a new national anthem. Hun Sen returned to his assembly and, however much it is criticised, he has obtained a new flag which is more attractive than the old one, and the country is now being called Cambodia. The only thing with which he had trouble was the national anthem, because the national assembly in Phnom Penh did not like its slowness and wanted something brighter. That is an example of how things have been done to assist reconciliation, yet each time Prince Sihanouk goes back to Peking, he returns to his original formula involving the Khmer Rouge.
Much of the propaganda, which is still about and which poisoned the Paris conference, is reflected in a letter which Prince Sihanouk wrote to The New York Times on 13 March, following an article by Elizabeth Becker :
"It is most regrettable that Ms. Becker confuses the traitor regime of Cambodia that serves only the interests of the Vietnamese Communist colonialists with that of the real Cambodia. The People's Republic of Kampuchea of Hun Sen is not Cambodia ; it is merely a creation, and a creature of the expansionist and colonialist Vietnam Communist regime."
Are those the words of settlement? I think not.
Those of us who have had the good fortune to travel to Cambodia twice relatively recently--in 1987 and only a few weeks ago--know that this is not an accurate picture of Hun Sen, Vietnam or the scene within Cambodia. I suspect that the United Kingdom Government and others have a lack of balance in this matter, because they have no appreciation of the reality of what is happening within Cambodia. Earlier this year, The Bangkok Post of Wednesday 17 May said : "Khmer resistance leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk has said Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping strongly warned him against breaking his alliance with the Khmer Rouge The Bangkok-based diplomats told AFP Prince Sihanouk had told them Deng had threatened to fight' him if he expelled the Khmer Rouge'."
Bearing in mind the fact that we have a civil war and a coalition of convenience, my horror is that there will be not just three armies against Hun Sen, but armies against one another : the Khmer Rouge against the Sihanoukists--with whom they have been in conflict in the past. Therefore, it is essential that we have a far better understanding of the problem.
I understand the argument of Prince Sihanouk and the coalition, that, as we have this army, the only way to deal with it is to involve it in the coalition or the interim Government, which is what we are really talking about. I fear that philosophy, because it supports Mao's theory that power grows from the barrel of a gun. That is a dangerous argument to accept.
The only reason why the Khmer Rouge army has not been defeated is because it has had refuge in Thailand. If the Vietnamese had gone after it in Thailand, all hell would have been let loose. It has been sustained, in secret, in China and in Thailand. The only way in which genuinely to judge its military effectiveness would be if the Thais were allowed to pursue the policy which they now seek.
I do not know whether there is any truth in the notion of Sihanoukists being trained. In his policy to the American Administration, Steve Solarz suggested that Prince Sihanouk and his forces should be supplied with lethal aid to give them greater bargaining power in Paris. As I understand it, Steve Solarz changed his mind following the events at Paris, and that aid was not
Column 64provided. I suspect that, if we had done any training with Sihanouk forces, it would be more designed to deal with the question posed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) and to suggest that there was a more equal force between the Khmer Rouge and the Sihanoukists, rather than to train the Sihanoukists to fight the Vietnamese. That is why I constantly refer to the coalition as one of convenience.
We cannot impose, as we tried in Paris, perhaps through diplomatic skills, a quadripartite interim Government. There are three options which we should pursue more deliberately. The first is the Jakarta formula which was negotiated between Hun Sen and Prince Sihanouk. That required that there should be external Khmers, represented by Prince Sihanouk and his coalition Government--within which there could be members of the Khmer Rouge, although members could not stand in their own right. The most politically unacceptable factor in Cambodia, and the one which, Hun Sen says, would stop him delivering an interim Government, would be if that Government included the Khmer Rouge with its armies intact.
We could pursue this Jakarta formula, which was nogotiated and then reneged upon, with the external and internal Khmers in an interim Government for a short period to organise the elections which we all seek. We all--including the internal Government--want to find the quickest way to organise elections which are eligible, free and fair, to enable the Cambodian people to choose their own future Government.
The second option is to back the Prime Minister Chatichai of Thailand in his small steps policy, which is well documented in The Washington Post of 11 November, in which the Thais urge a shift in United States policy and the Prime Minister wants President Bush to be more conciliatory to Hanoi. The Prime Minister says that we should abandon the elusive goal of the power-sharing formula and recognise much more the Vietnamese position. We should get the three or four competing factions in an informal manner to proceed towards the goal of a United Nations team visiting the country to reassure everyone of two facts : first, that the Vietnamese have withdrawn, and secondly that--this is one reason why the Paris talks failed--the settlers are no longer there.
The third option is the Namibia solution, which we all hope and pray has been successful, even as the votes are being counted. In Namibia, the United Nations was able to organise free and fair elections with what was seen to be an illegal regime--the South African regime. The conditions were that the South African military were withdrawn into their barracks and the external military were not allowed to return with guns, although they could return without them. An election was organised, of which we shall all, hopefully, see the results soon.
Mr. Dalyell : On the question of external military, what is the hon. Gentleman's view of alleged British military training of forces in Cambodia? Does he accept that, when Ministers say that they never discuss these matters, that is belied by the fact that press statements were issued in relation to the SAS training for the South Korea olympics, and in relation to Mazambique, Spain and a Foreign Office statement on the work which the British military are rightly carrying out in Colombia. Therefore, there is no precedent for not making statements to the Commons about the military problems.
Mr. Lester : I have read the Jane's Defence Weekly articles, which may or may not be true. I do not want to be sidetracked by this issue, but as I read it, the document revealed basic military training to forces under the control of Prince Sihanouk in Thailand, not Cambodia. Whether that happened, I do not know. However, if it did, I suspect that it was more because Prince Sihanouk, in all his representations to western leaders, has constantly complained about the weakness of his military position in relation to Khmer Rouge. I suspect that if that happened, it was more to give him increased political and military power as against the Khmer Rouge within the coalition than to enable him to be successful in any civil war. In any case, I strongly press all sides to end the civil war--that is paramount.
The resolution to be debated next Wednesday should include a new form of words that would enable the Secretary-General to continue his policy which started in Paris and to initiate a mission to Phnom Penh and Cambodia. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South suggested, that mission should verify the Vietnamese withdrawal and all that should flow from that. It is wrong to move the goalposts as events unfold.
When the Foreign Affairs Select Committee went to Vietnam way back in 1986, we recommended that our policy should be to encourage the normalisation of relationships with America and with other ASEAN countries as soon as possible after the Vietnamese had left Cambodia. We do not need to verify that they have left, but many Governments will not formally recognise that until it has the UN seal of approval. That should be given quickly, so that normalisation can follow and we can end the embargo on Vietnam, which should be rehabilitated within ASEAN, as it has applied to join. The ASEAN nations must put their thinking caps on and make a proper response to that application.
The mission should also verify that there are not 1 million Vietnamese settlers. If one studies carefully what happened in Paris and in the ad hoc committee, one discovers that it all fell apart because of the prejudices of the factions.
The arguments revolved around "genocide" not being allowed to be included in the resolution, and the Vietnamese settlers.
As I have said before, we all know that genocide took place. Those of us who have been to Cambodia have tried hard to discover the 1 million Vietnamese settlers who are paraded by the Chinese and Sihanouk. The commission could verify that ; the commission offered by Hun Sen would include Khmer-speaking external Khmers who can tell the difference between Vietnamese and Khmers, and who speak the language.
The resolution should also underline the need for the immediate suspension of hostilities and of arms supplies from all sources--whether from China, Russia or America. I hope that the Americans are not sending the lethal aid that they talked about. It is not good for the British Government to continue to be seen to be siding with the coalition to the exclusion of the internal Government. Such a lack of balance cannot lead to the solution that we all seek.
Many of us have been to the camps on the Thai border. The resolution mentions people being allowed to return freely and safely to their homeland. Most of us who have been to the camps recognise that the people cannot even return freely to the villages around them and certainly not
Column 66those between the camps. The condition in the camps has been well documented--we have had to send a special police force to uphold a form of justice there, to replace the barbarism that prevailed before.
To suggest that these camps are good advertisements for the coalition Government and for the way in which they treat people is untrue. We do not know much about the camps under Khmer Rouge control, because until recently no one was allowed into them. Although one receives a tremendous welcome when entering the other two camps, one can detect that they are camps for the rest and rehabilitation of the military forces who have been fighting in Cambodia.
The internal Government's signature on a document allowing these people to return to Cambodia was given to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees long ago, but I suspect that they could not cross the threshold of the country even if they wanted to. In Phnom Penh, we looked carefully at the conditions for the return of the external Khmers and at the work done by the Red Cross with the UNHCR in the form of plans to facilitate the end of the misery of the people in these camps.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's efforts to give increased aid to Cambodia. I know that she had a great deal to do with that and with the much more forthcoming attitude of her predecessor--who began pound-for-pound aid to the non-governmental organisations--and that she is using the heads of NGOs to talk about what can be done on a greater scale. I refer, for instance, to the £250,000 which has been promised to UNICEF and which I hope will go to the hospital that we saw on the Pilger film. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I have been there and can vouch for its needs.
The United Nations Development Programme report which I mentioned in my Adjournment debate is available ; it analyses constructively the desperate needs of Cambodia, despite the fact that the UNDP could not go to Phnom Penh. The report draws a conclusion similar to that to which we came when we visited the country : an aid programme on a sufficient scale cannot be started until there is peace, and until there is confidence among those who have to administer it. A return of the people who are capable of interfacing with those who want to give the aid must come first.
Part of the problem is that the aid programmes, even those from the Soviet Union, have great difficulty finding the necessary intermediaries to transfer the knowledge and aid, thanks to the ravages of Pol Pot and the lack of confidence among many of the people serving in the Administration. It is not enough merely to increase the aid programme--the waterworks are a good example of that. Oxfam has done marvellous work getting the waterworks up to World Health Organisation standards--when the water leaves the waterworks. It then goes into a piping system which is completely destroyed and broken into at every level by people using it instead of wells. Replacing the water system in a city like Phnom Penh is not work for an NGO ; it is a matter for a massive infrastructure aid programme. The Government have recognised that it is important that someone from Bangkok should visit Phnom Penh to see for himself what the hon. Member for Cynon Valley and I have been trying to say since 1987. We are not spokesmen for the Hun Sen Government ; I have been around the world enough to be reasonably fair, but I know that the picture in Phnom Penh does not bear out the
Column 67propaganda that we hear from Bangkok. The Government in Phnom Penh have struggled against impossible odds to bring about some rehabilitation. A fundamental change has been wrought between 1987 and a few weeks ago. There is a thriving market economy, in which gold and motor cars can be bought ; there are new hotels, but there is still a desperate need for infrastructure.
Pagodas are being rebuilt and pagoda education is beginning again--hardly the action of a Stalinist-Communist Government. The rehabilitation process is borne out by the UNDP report.
Hun Sen has been attacked in an underhand way as having been a former member of the Khmer Rouge, but that must be put in context. As he said in his press conference in Phnom Penh, he joined the Khmer nationalist movement with Prince Sihanouk at a time when the Americans backed Lol Non's attempt to take over. Hun Sen sees himself--in this he is supported by the Prime Minister of Thailand--as a nationalist, and that is what he is. Prince Sihanouk was the big fish in that struggle, and Hun Sen was a very small fish, so it is not good enough to cast doubts on his sincerity and on what he has tried to do by linking him with the Khmer Rouge and its terrible activities.
As we have continually said, Britain can play a role if it sets out to do so. We are the only member of the Security Council which has not been directly involved in the conflict and we chaired the committee which finally settled the Vietnam war. I beg my right hon. Friend the Minister to go to the Foreign Secretary and to all members of her team and press them to pay much more lively attention to what has been said in the House. They should bring about a dramatic change of policy and should do a great deal more to achieve the result that we all seek.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) : When I saw the answer that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) was given by the Foreign Secretary last week, I thought that it signified some change of mood by the Government, in that they were willing to give some aid to Cambodia. However, when I heard the Chamberlainesque speech by the Minister, my doubts about Government policy returned very rapidly.
At least the Vietnamese have left Cambodia. In his answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe, the Foreign Secretary said as much--that the Government accepted that the Vietnamese had left. However, we have heard speeches from the Minister and from the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) the main tenor of which was how nasty the Vietnamese were to invade Cambodia and get rid of the murderous Pol Pot. When I hear such speeches, I wonder where we are going.
The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South talked about free elections. How can there be free elections in the middle of a civil war? The danger that many people thought would arise if the Vietnamese withdrew from Cambodia is unfolding before our eyes. There are reports of 17,000 people already killed and of the town of Pailin already occupied by the murderous legions of Pol Pot.
The forces of Pol Pot are now marching on Battambang. It is a regional capital and the second largest city in Cambodia. Poor and desperate as it is, Cambodia depends greatly on its jute production and Battambang has Cambodia's only factory for making the sacks in which the jute is wrapped and sent to market.The factory is financed by Oxfam and there are British people in the town, Oxfam people working on an irrigation scheme. If that town falls, it is widely rumoured that the Khmer Rouge has said that it will go full belt for a military solution.
How can we talk about free elections and about the Vietnamese at a time when armies similar to those of Hitler in 1940 are sweeping across Cambodia? It can only be a matter of weeks before they reach Phnom Penh and once again impose the foul Pol Pot regime. The people held responsible for that will be those who take no action now and just laugh about the situation, the people who will go to the United Nations next Wednesday and refuse to take any action whatever. In August I visited the camps at Khao-I -Dang and Rythisen on the border with Thailand. I pay tribute to the gallant British nurses who are working in the hospital there. They are from Bristol, Gloucester, Manchester and Stockport. Those young girls are doing a marvellous job in that hospital, as I know the hon. Member for Broxtowe and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) have seen for themselves. A Finnish women surgeon working on her own is dealing with all the necessary amputations in an area ravaged by minefields, which from time to time suffers shellfire. A young Frenchman is training the Cambodians to make wheelchairs and artificial limbs from the very poor materials that they have.
Those people require assistance, and so far no practical assistance has been given by the British Government to Cambodians on either side of the border. However, the silence of the Minister confirms that aid is going to the Khmer Rouge by way of training its allies in weaponry. We know that is true because the Government remain silent about it and silence speaks volumes.
There are 140,000 refugees in the camps around the
Thailand-Cambodia border. Of those refugees, no fewer than 59.35 per cent. are under the age of 24. That means that most of them remember very little about Cambodia. They were very young or not born at all when Pol Pot ravaged their homeland. The site 2 camp of Rythisen has the largest concentration of Cambodians outside Phnom Penh. They are living in a relatively urban community. There should be steady repatriation to Cambodia, because those people need to be trained as farmers, the only occupation that will be open to them. We need an economic development package, not a military training package, to train those young people. The fact that they are predominantly young people reflects what happened in the killing fields of Cambodia, when their elder brothers and older people were killed in the Hitlerite fashion that we know as the hallmark of Pol Pot.
The Khmer Rouge are undoubtedly being assisted by the Chinese and encouraged by the United States and Britain by the silence and their intervention in attempts to train people to carry weapons into Cambodia. China probably more than any other country was responsible for the collapse of the peace talks in Paris. The Chinese
Column 69Government were the perpetrators of the massacre in Tiananmen square and China's Foreign Minister is quoted in the South China Morning Post as having insisted that any change in Cambodia would mean the end of the existing Government in Phnom Penh and the installation of a coalition Government which must, as far as China is concerned, include the Khmer Rouge.
There seemed some sign in the Foreign Secretary's reply on Wednesday that the Government will look again at their policy. The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South talked about "Pilgerisation", but it is not just that, because on television we saw the actuality of conditions for the people in Cambodia, the life of the people in the camps. British people recognise the truth when they see it ; that is why they will put increasing pressure on their Members of Parliament to make the Government change their mind.
The Government have a golden opportunity on Wednesday to raise the whole issue again in the United Nations General Assembly. I fear that, in a few weeks, we shall be talking about Phnom Penh as if it were Paris after 14 June 1940, when the Nazis occupied it. There is a serious war and a crisis in Cambodia and the legions of Pol Pot are not standing aside and saying, "Let us wait and see if we can have free elections." They are getting on with their murderous job of returning to power. Our Government have an opportunity to speak for what the British people want, which is justice for the people of Cambodia.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : I thought that the Minister's contribution was shameful. It seriously damaged his justified reputation as a decent human being. I appreciate that he did not write it, but he should have had the strength to refuse to read out what was clearly written by a civil servant. I trust that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman)--he is not here at the moment--takes office, there will be a shakeup of the south-east Asia department of the Foreign and Commonwealth office.
The low point of the Minister's speech was his attempt to provide a history of events in Kampuchea but to omit the fact that the Vietnamese invasion was in response to what the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) called "an incident" on the border. This incident was an attempt by the Khmer Rouge to annexe the western provinces of Vietnam. I know some of the people who were living there at that time, and I know what they saw. This attempt resulted in the butchery of thousands of women and children and similar incidents took place on the border with Thailand.
Whoever wrote the Minister's speech knows that such events occurred. The Minister does not know that. As he cheerfully admitted in the Adjournment debate the other day, he knows not the slightest thing about this issue, as it is not within his remit. It is fundamental to the dishonesty that ran throughout his speech that he attempted to skip over the history of those events, and did not mention them. I invite the House to contemplate how Her Majesty's Government might respond if a foreign power attempted to annexe the southern counties of England, and in the process butchered thousands of our citizens. I wonder whether we would have described that as "an incident".
The second low point of the Minister's speech was his refusal to respond to the determined attempts by my right