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Column 70hon. Friend the Member for Gorton to get from him the facts about the presence of the SAS on the Thai-Cambodian border. We have been told that that is only a token gesture. Jane's Defence Weekly has said that there are only six or seven of them and that they are training people to put mines on roads and to blow up some of the bridges that Oxfam is helping the people to build. No doubt we have made that token gesture as a result of great pressure from the United States, just as, when the Vietnam war was at its height, we were under great pressure to send British service men there to make the war look respectable. I believe that we did and that the bodies of a number of SAS people are still to be found in the soil of Vietnam, but I shall pass over that.
Like other hon. Members, I have been to Cambodia. I went for the first time in August 1973 and my experience was a little different from that of the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South because I strayed off the cocktail party circuit. At the time, Phnom Penh was surrounded and American B52s were burning the country down village by village. I saw with my own eyes what they were doing. I woke up at night and the whole city was shaking because of the bombs, and the sky was lit up. They were bombing up to the suburbs. That bombing was controlled from the windowless bunker which passed for the American embassy.
The Americans were caught at it. I remember an American journalist, Sylvanna Foa, accidentally twiddling with the knobs of her portable radio and discovering that the instructions to the pilots of the B52s were coming directly from the American embassy, and could be heard on the radio frequency. That is possibly the only time that diplomats accredited to a country were attempting to burn it down.
I also vividly remember the American Government's principal problem in this case--their ignorance. The Americans must be mentioned frequently because we were only following on behind them in this as in many other cases. They were amazingly ignorant even then about the events in the country that they were burning down. I remember sitting in that windowless bunker in Phnom Penh in August 1973 and an American first secretary describing to me how the Khmer Rouge did not exist. He developed the theme at some length.
We have to pinch ourselves to remember that the official policy was that it was a Vietnamese invasion, although a handful of indigenous Khmer might be involved. He told me that Saloth Sar, which is Pol Pot's real name, Hou Youn, Hu Nim and Kieu Samphan, who were the original leaders of the Khmer Rouge, had been murdered by Sihanouk. However, there was a film of Sihanouk visiting what were described as the liberated zones. A film-maker himself, he had filmed himself embracing the three "ghosts" as they were known. That film would have been available, but when I put that to the first secretary, he said, "We think that one of them may be alive, but the other two were actors impersonating the leaders." That was the line 18 months before Phnom Penh fell. The Americans were still denying that the Khmer Rouge existed.
The irony is that now the people whom they were bombing--the Khmer Rouge-- and the Sihanouk supporters are those whom the Americans are helping to get back to power. We have to pinch ourselves to remember--the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) referred to this--that Sihanouk was removed in a military coup run
Column 71by the Americans. The country was a wholly- owned subsidiary of the United States at that time. The Americans replaced him with the lunatic Marshal Lon Nol--a man who believed that the Communists were strapping rockets to rabbits and sending them into Government installations.
I remember all that because I was there and I remember going back in 1980 shortly after Pol Pot had left town, courtesy of the Vietnamese. By then, Cambodia was a wholly isolated country. The scenes that one saw have been recorded elsewhere, so I shall not repeat them, but I remember many things. I remember the day, in February 1980, when I flew out of Phnom Penh. I turned on the radio in Bangkok and heard a British Foreign Office Minister speaking at a conference in Geneva about Vietnamese atrocities in Cambodia. When I got back to London, I rang up the man and asked him for chapter and verse of evidence for that statement. He became extremely flustered and said that he had left his notes in Geneva. We can see that the knowledge among Foreign Office Ministers has not improved.
Mr. Mullin : I have travelled extensively in those regions and one of the questions that occurs to me is this. Where does the Foreign Office get its information? Does it come from the British embassy in Hanoi? I know many of the people there. They are decent, intelligent good people and I believe that they are reporting back accurately on what they see around them. The information driving the Government to this ludicrous policy is thus unlikely to come from that source. Does it come from the British embassy in Bangkok? The ambassador in Bangkok, Mr. Tonkin, was the former ambassador in Hanoi. I have not met him since he went to Bangkok, but he was a decent intelligent man then and I believe that he and his staff are reporting accurately. So the information does not come from Bangkok.
The answer is that the information comes on the telex from the United States. One day a telex from Washington will give Mr. Colvin and the other civil servants in the south-east Asia department--the architects of this policy--permission to change the line, and it will change. A Minister will come running down here and read another brief that he does not wholly understand. I am sad to say that we are a satellite state, and this is one of the most humiliating examples of our satellite status. We are the Bulgaria of western Europe, but at a time when glasnost is running through Bulgaria one would like to think that it might also extend to the western satellites of the United States.
I leave the House with one question. If, as Ministers repeatly assure us, Pol Pot is unpopular--everyone assures us that they have nothing to do with him--and nobody loves him and nobody has anything to do with him, how has he survived in exile over the past decade? Let no one
Column 72say that it is all to do with the Chinese. China has no contiguous border with Cambodia. The weapons that come from China are transported in ships which come from the former American air base at Utapao. They are taken in Thai army trucks to the various Khmer Rouge camps along the Cambodian border. The Thai army, which is a partial subsidiary of the United States, pauses only to take its rake-off from the Chinese weapons.
Where does the food come from? It comes from the United Nations border relief operation. Tony Jackson of Oxfam has recently returned from one of the Khmer Rouge camps on the border. He saw United Nations food being packed for onward transmission to the interior. Where is Pol Pot now? It is no secret that the last recorded sightings of Pol Pot were at the Cardoman mountains inside Cambodia. He has with him a force of about 6,000 men. He and his men are being sustained by United Nations rations. We all contribute food, including the British, American and Japanese Governments. All western countries have contributed to the supplies of food that sustain the Khmer Rouge.
The factor that has sustained the Khmer Rouge most during the past decade has been diplomatic recognition, and a great deal of arm twisting has taken place to secure that. The right hon. Member for Blackpool, South mentioned ASEAN. The ASEAN countries understand that their satellite status is dependent on continuing to toe the line on an extremely unpopular issue.
When I passed through Bangkok last September I stopped off at the Thai Prime Minister's residence for a few hours. It was made clear to me that Thailand was doing everything possible to get out from under, but it cannot do so because it is afraid of the military. Who runs the Thai military? The United States has more control over it than the Thai Prime Minister, as has been demonstrated by the repeated military coups in Thailand over the past 30 years. The Thais are being leaned upon to keep the line.
How can Pol Pot and the other Khmer Rouge leaders come and go from Thailand? Do they use a motor boat to land on some abandoned island? No, they come through Don Muang airport, the main international airport in Bangkok. They use the military section. I am told that Pol Pot has twice been hospitalised in Bangkok. I am told also that at one stage he and the other leaders of the Khmer Rouge had a suite in the Erawan hotel. That hotel has since been demolished. Friends of mine in Bangkok have seen Khmer Rouge leaders in the Liberty hotel in Bangkok. Everybody knows what is going on and it is fraudulent for Ministers to pretend otherwise.
We see a shameful state of affairs. We all realise that we are just bit players, but Britain is being degraded. Decent people of all political persuasions around the world consider that we are being brought into disrespect. I appreciate that whichever Minister replies to the debate will have to read out another brief written by Mr. Colvin and his friends. I hope that when the Ministers return to the Foreign Office they will give him a bollocking and tell him that he should go to the department of folding deck chairs before too long. I trust that their policy on this issue will change.
Column 73of my right hon. and hon. Friends, was not present to hear some of the speeches of my right hon. and hon. Friends for the past 45 minutes.
We have heard precisely what the British Government's policy is on Cambodia. It is clear that Cambodia is being punished because of a grudge against Vietnam. That has been made clear by those who have spoken from the Government Benches. The continuing punishment and isolation of Cambodia can be seen in its children. Those of us who have been to Cambodia on two occasions, such as the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and I, have seen children in the paediatric hospital in Phnom Penh lying in corridors because there are no beds for them. Others are lying in their mothers' laps because there is nowhere else to put them.
Some of the children we saw were desperately ill. There are children crying in hospital everywhere. Many die from conditions as simple as diarrhoea. They do not get the proper medical care that they should receive. One in five children die of preventable diseases before the age of five. Many die because they drink contaminated water. We have heard described this afternoon what Pol Pot did to Phnom Penh. He went into the city with his Khmer Rouge troops in 1975 and smashed the waterworks.
Sir Robert Jackson, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, wrote :
"In a disaster operation, three phases are normally distinguished : relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. In the case of Kampuchea, not even the phase of relief has been advanced to what in other humanitarian operations would be regarded as just adequate'. At best it can be said that the lives of the people have been preserved after that holocaust, but no more."
Cambodia is the only country in the world to be denied United Nations development aid, which provides such necessities as a clean water supply, decent sanitation, tractors and irrigation pumps. Cambodia receives practically none of those things because of a 10-year blockade that is led by the United States and China, which is supported by ASEAN and Britain. If the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South would listen, he would understand that that was the mention of ASEAN that he was so anxious to hear.
Few Governments have tried to help by giving money to non-governmental organisations. Oxfam and other agencies have done a tremendous job in Cambodia. As the hon. Member for Broxtowe said, Oxfam is supplying and installing water pumps in rural areas. That work has been exceptionally important, but we can provide only a fraction of what Cambodia really needs.
In June 1989--this is an example of how the United Nations has been unable to carry out its proper function--the United Nations Development Programme sent an exploratory mission to Cambodia. It never got further than Bangkok, because the United States and Japan vetoed the mission.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe and I visited Cambodia for a second time in two years. We have seen how much the country has changed in that period. Many people pin their faith on the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen. They believe that he has the most lenient regime in Cambodian modern history. Everyone acknowledges that he is the driving force behind the reforms that have taken place.
The legal system and the constitution have been reformed. If anyone thinks that the hon. Member for Broxtowe and I are stooges of the Cambodian
Column 74Government, let him or her understand that on two occasions we put searching questions to the Cambodian Government on behalf of Amnesty International because of our concern about human rights in the country. Over the past two years, there have been remarkable improvements, following some of our earlier criticisms. That is true especially of the practice of holding people in detention without trial. The Prime Minister said that he was considering ways of allowing Amnesty International and other international agencies such as the Red Cross to visit prisons in Cambodia.
First, however, Hun Sen has to fight the civil war. He reiterated time after time that he was not heading a Communist regime. He asked, "Tell us where you can see it?" He wants Cambodia to be a non-aligned state. He asked, "Why is it that the West continues to punish the victims, the Cambodian people?"
The United States and the West force Cambodia to depend on the eastern bloc. That is the only way in which the country can breathe. That is a stupid policy and it is high time that the British Government and other western Governments recognised it. I received a telex from the Cambodian Government today, in which they repeat their invitation for a United Nations mission to verify withdrawal. In the event that there is any doubt in anyone's mind, they are inviting that verification.
We have heard much this afternoon of John Pilger. I think that he is responsible more than anyone else for raising the conscience of the British people on this issue. He went to the Foreign Office to discover who were the reasonable people among the Khmer Rouge whom the Prime Minister has mentioned so often. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Minister of State with responsibility for South-East Asia was caught napping. He has the same relationship with South-East Asia as Alice in Wonderland has with nuclear fission.
When asked who were the reasonable elements in the Khmer Rouge, he um-ed and ah-ed and said, "The ones that Prince Sihanouk can work with." "But you must know their names," pressed Mr. Pilger, and the noble Lord's face crumpled like an autumn leaf and he gasped like a dying goldfish. His Foreign Office heavy stepped in to protect him : "Stop this now," he shouted at the cameras. "This is not the way that we were led to believe the line of questioning would go. I think the Minister is doing remarkably well under an aggressive line of questioning that we were not told we had to brief the Minister for." In other words : "It is not fair at all, because we had briefed him to tell a different set of lies."
On 8 November, the Foreign Secretary told the House, the British Press and the public that United Kingdom policy on Cambodia was being modified and that those modifications would be introduced into the draft resolution to be debated at the United Nations on Wednesday 15 November. As my hon. Friends have said, that resolution has been altered by only two words.
Not only has the Foreign Secretary attempted to mislead the House and the country, but we are faced with two conflicting statements of United Kingdom policy on Cambodia. First, the Foreign Secretary and the Minister state that Vietnam has withdrawn its combat units from Cambodia, but the draft resolution states only that it deplores "foreign armed intervention and occupation in Kampuchea." The Foreign Secretary 's statement cites the Khmer Rouge six times and makes clear the Government's condemnation
Column 75and opposition to their return to power. However, the draft resolution, which the United Kingdom is co-sponsoring on Wednesday, contains no explicit condemnation of the Khmer Rouge, nor any statement condemning its return to power. Indeed, there is no reference by name to the Khmer Rouge anywhere in the United Nations resolution.
Such deviations would not make much difference if all that was at stake was a ritual debate at the United Nations, but the implications of such a resolution which disregards the changes which have taken place in Cambodia ensures that the Khmer Rouge continue to enjoy the prestige of their United Nations seat.
The Foreign Secretary's statement--
"We have never given and will never give, support of any kind to the Khmer Rouge"--
is a deliberate attempt to mislead the House. We voted three times--in 1979, 1980 and 1981--to seat the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. Since 1982, we have not challenged the seating of the coalition controlled by the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. That is why a challenge to those who occupy that seat at the United Nations is an important symbol to the people of Cambodia. They cannot understand, and nor can the Opposition, why nations such as Britain should be party to such a situation. It is as though West Germany's seat at the United Nations was occupied by Himmler, and the swastika flew at New York. Britain has therefore voted to keep the Khmer Rouge in the United Nations, ensuring it international recognition and prestige, access to funds and a right of veto in major United Nations humanitarian agencies.
As we have heard, the coalition is made up of former Khmer Rouge murderers and include Khieu Samphan who was head of state and presided over the mass killings in 1976-80, and Thioun Prasith, a top Khmer Rouge official during the killing fields years, whose job was to tempt back from overseas Khmer intellectuals, who were then murdered in Cambodia.
In his statement on 8 November, the Foreign Secretary said that the credentials committee of the United Nations had approved the credentials of democratic Kampuchea and that was the end of the matter. But again, that is not entirely accurate. Any country, at any time during this week's debate, can challenge the representation of Cambodia by war criminals who were their murderers only 10 years ago. Many western countries are looking for a major player at the United Nations to take a lead. Britain has a chance to speak on behalf of a small nation that has been bombed, murdered and devastated over the past 20 years.
Since when has Britain slavishly supported mass murderers? It needs only one country--how wonderful it would be if Britain were that country--to stand up to the Chinese and American pressure which is silencing everyone else. The United Kingdom has been on the wrong side of this dirty war. Over the past 10 years, the policy of the West has been to get the Vietnamese to leave. Now we admit that they have gone, it is no longer logical to support the seating of the coalition at the United Nations or the resolution.
Column 76We need a radical rethink of our policy to release aid to Cambodia and to Vietnam. It is now illogical and dangerous to pursue the old American policy of bleeding Vietnam white on the battlefields of Cambodia.
The Khmer Rouge have taken Pailin, an important strategic town. Their forces are reported to be about 30 miles from Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. We are not dealing with a fanciful possibility ; we are standing on the sidelines watching mass murderers on the march. The killing has started again. According to a Chinese source, 17,000 are dead and the Khmer Rouge have knocked out a crack Government battalion, and they intend to purge 300,000 Cambodians. Even more sinister, Pol Pot is back in Cambodia. Oxfam representatives who returned from Thailand at the weekend have been told that Pol Pot is in Cambodia and is in charge of 6,000 troops, having successfully captured Pailin. The border refugee camps are preparing for war and sending soldiers to the front. There is no doubt that those camps are a prime source of sanctuary and supplies for the Khmer Rouge.
In August 1988, the Prime Minister, in a visit to the camps on the Thai- Cambodia border, made a ringing declaration :
"The Vietnamese must go, but we must not allow the return of the terrible Pol Pot regime in their place. No civilised country could accept that."
The Vietnamese have gone and we have a chance at the United Nations this week to show whether we are a civilised country. There is still time. If ever there was a time for consensus, this is it. I appeal to Conservative Members to heed the common-sense voices of the British people. Three and a half thousand people have written to the Foreign Secretary, 1,500 have written to the Prime Minister and hundreds have written to right hon. and hon. Members. Unless we act, we shall be accused of a shameful and shocking stain on Britain's foreign policy.
Finally, I shall quote one paragraph from a letter I received : "I write to you as a private individual. I am a member of no political party and have no vested interest. I am only a human being Cambodia receives no aid, Vietnam receives no aid, yet Pol Pot receives aid. Great Britain is a founder member of the United Nations and a member of the Security Council yet we do nothing. A nation that talks so proudly of previous conflicts against tyranny sits back whilst the key to the killing fields is returned to Pol Pot. I implore you. In the name of humanity, DO SOMETHING."
The Minister for Overseas Development (Mrs. Lynda Chalker) : Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), I very much welcome the debate. It is important to place on the record exactly what is happening, and in the short time available, I shall do my best to do so.
Our objective is clear and consistent--an independent and sovereign Cambodia. We want to see peace and stability restored to Cambodia through a comprehensive political settlement, which must create the conditions in which its people can elect a Government of their choice free from fear of Khmer Rouge atrocities, foreign occupation or civil war. Our repugnance of the Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge regime is well known. We have never given it, and will never give it, support of any kind. In the light of the false statements made by the hon. Members for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), I want to put in context the humanitarian help that we are giving. Humanitarian aid is
Column 77being given to people inside Cambodia. In 1988, we contributed £250,000 to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund programme on humanitarian activities in Cambodia, and £100,000 to a special appeal by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. We continue to help, and last week we announced a further £250,000 for UNICEF. In the past year, we have contributed nearly £1 million to UNICEF, the FAO and British non-governmental organisations, which is being distributed to people inside Cambodia. That sum was in addition to the £13.7 million that was given to Cambodians in the border area. After the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, Britain was the first country to give humanitarian aid to the camps. We believe that that was important and right. Hon. Members asked whether humanitarian aid for people in the camps is being given to groups other than the Khmer Rouge. We rely on assurances from NGOs and international organisations that British aid is being given directly to non-Communist refugees. Indeed, it is given only to camps controlled by the two non-Communist factions led by Son Sann and Prince Sihanouk. At the Foreign Secretaries' meeting tomorrow, I shall follow that up with British NGOs and other organisations to ensure that aid is being given only to non-Communist refugees in the camps. We shall continue to help through the United Nations border relief operation, by which help is given to non-Communist refugees, and in other ways to ensure that the needs of the Cambodian people inside and outside Cambodia are met. We are determined that humanitarian aid should be given to those who truly need it, so I am considering the position anew, which I began to do last week before the Foreign Secretary's announcement.
Mr. Dalyell : Statements were made about British military help for South Korea during the olympic games and for help with the drugs problem in Colombia. What is the position on British military aid for Cambodia? Will the Minister clear this up?
We have been helping Colombia with its serious drugs problem. The question asked about Cambodia concerns the special forces. Neither previous Labour Governments nor this Conservative Government have commented on the use of special forces, and I have no intention of doing so now.
May I deal with the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), who made a valuable speech this evening and who has shown his care and concern for the Cambodian people? I may not agree with all that my hon. Friend says, but I thank him for all the work that he has done.
The answer to the question that my hon. Friend posed on 8 November is that there has been no fundamental policy shift ; the statement does not contain the untruths that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) suggested. The statement was clear, and we all know, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe said, that
Column 78circumstances have changed in Cambodia. We have responded to take account of those changes. The current position in Cambodia is complex and changes frequently, but we must respond to it. Our most effective contribution--the answer given by the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe endorsed this--is to concentrate not only on providing humanitarian aid but on promoting a comprehensive political settlement.
Many hon. Members mentioned Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. Britain's record is consistent. We voted for the annual United Nations General Assembly resolution, which was drafted by the Association of South- East Asian Nations, because we believed it right to do so. Our aim is a peaceful, independent Cambodia, whose people can decide their own future. With our friends and partners, we sought and agreed certain changes to this year's draft resolution. We made it clear not only that circumstances have changed but that we wished to remove any implication that we support the Khmer Rouge. We do not and shall not do so.
This year's amended resolution has attracted 75 co-sponsors, because it endorses the need for a comprehensive political settlement in Cambodia and condemns the Pol Pot regime. Voting in previous years suggests that well over 100 United Nations member states are likely to vote for it in the General Assembly debate this week. I do not believe that greater changes would have received such widespread support. The debate will not address Cambodia's representation at the United Nations, which was settled on 17 October when the General Assembly adopted, without a vote, the report of the United Nations credentials committee for the forthcoming year. At a future United Nations session, we shall have to return to the question of who occupies Cambodia's seat.
Only two countries stated any reservations in the report of the credentials committee--Byelorussia, which is one of the ways that Russia has three votes, and Laos. They stated a number of reservations on behalf of themselves and their allies about the acceptance of Democratic Kampuchea's credentials. No other country stated reservations--
We stated that our position on credentials did not imply support for Pol Pot or the Khmer Rouge, and we made it absolutely clear that we wished to return to the subject. It is not true that the occupation of Cambodia's UN seat by the coalition Government of Democratic Cambodia prevents the UN from contributing humanitarian relief inside Cambodia. UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are active, and I am certain that they will take further action.
We believe that a comprehensive political settlement that will enable the Cambodian people to elect a Government of their choice is the best way of achieving peace. If we were to exclude, as some people have suggested, the Khmer Rouge from the peace process, it would drive them further into a guerrilla war and would make free and fair elections impossible, which is why we have backed the judgment of those who support all four
Column 79factions getting around the table. Clearly, there is no place in Cambodia's future for Pol Pot or the murderous Khmer Rouge. If Prince Sihanouk's judgment changed or he were no longer there, we would still need to bring all the parties to the conference table. Britain will give humanitarian aid directly to the people of Cambodia, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his answer last week. Equally vital is our work, beyond any United Nations debate, with our partners for a comprehensive political settlement. It has to be--
Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland) rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to. Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question :--
The House divided : Ayes, 192, Noes 258.
Division No. 402] [7 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Buckley, George J.