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"There is no British Government involvement of any kind"-- the Minister is referring to support for the Khmer Rouge in any form--and never has been
"training, equipping or co-operating with the Khmer Rouge forces". That is the complete sentence.
Mr. Mullin : The position is that we are training Sihanoukists. The unofficial official position or official unofficial position, if the House follows my reasoning, is that we are training Sihanoukists and supporters of Mr. Son Sann. The problem is that after a few months of this military training, members of the Khmer Rouge started to present themselves for training. That is why some people are talking now who were not prepared to do so previously. A blind eye has been turned over a period of several years.
Let us suppose that the position is not quite as Lord Caithness has stated. Let us suppose that the unofficial official position is that we are training Sihanoukists, supporters of Mr. Son Sann and Khmer Rouge terrorists. If someone has his leg blown off by a mine in Cambodia, I do not suppose that it matters very much to that person whether the person who planted the mine was a supporter of Prince Sihanouk, or Mr. Son Sann or of the Khmer
Column 656Rouge. I am against terrorism in all its forms, as I know the hon. and learned Member for Burton is. I suspect that the British public will be surprised when they come to hear of these matters. They have not yet been told. The letter signed by Lord Caithness is extremely misleading.
The British people have not yet been told the truth but I am reasonably confident--people are talking now who have not talked previously--that in due course the issue will be fully aired. I advise those who wrote Lord Caithness's letter--I do not suppose for a moment that Lord Caithness had anything to do with it--to think carefully about the wording that they use.
Following the unwelcome public interest that was aroused by Mr. Karniol's report--a similar report appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, which is not a Labour newspaper, and there were several excellent television programmes-- Mr. Dennis Gallwey, the MI6 officer responsible for the military training programme for Cambodians, was hastily withdrawn from his post at the British embassy at Bangkok. I gather that he has since retired. British advisers are, however, still to be found training Khmer Rouge terrorists in Thailand. The operation has been contracted out--privatised, one might say- -to former SAS soldiers. That will enable Ministers, including Lord Caithness, and others to deny with hand on heart that the Government are involved in the training of Khmer Rouge terrorists.
Mrs. Clwyd : I shall add to what my hon. Friend is saying by quoting from a letter written by Susan Eliot, who has worked for many years with Cambodian refugees. She has evidence that in Malaysia, British advisers have helped to train Khmer Rouge guerrillas. She states :
"The training was conducted by Malaysian army officers, through the medium of English language, with British and American trainers acting as advisers. Not only were the troops trained together but they travelled to and from Bangkok."
Mr. Mullin : Complex arrangements surround the training and supplying of the various Cambodian terrorist factions. I do not pretend to know all the details. Malaysia and Singapore appear to be involved. We have access to Malaysia--at Johore Baru--and military facilities in Brunei for jungle warfare training. I do not know whether those facilities are being used. The SAS has certainly been active in Malaysia over an extremely long period. The training that I am talking about is taking place on the Thai-- Cambodia border and British nationals appear still to be involved, whatever the precise arrangements are.
I invite the Minister to deny that British soldiers were training Cambodian terrorists between July 1985 and October 1989. I am not talking about the Khmer Rouge. It is no good if the Minister says that we are not training the Khmer Rouge and we would not dream of doing so. I am not talking about that. I prefer to use the term Khmer terrorists--those who plant mines in Cambodia and blow up bridges. It has been demonstrated that the Sihanouk faction works hand in hand with the Khmer Rouge. There are joint raiding parties and some of the weapons that are passed to the Sihanouk faction end up, for various reasons, in Khmer Rouge hands.
A film was made of a joint raiding party. I do not know how it was made. It was an extract from the Pilger film that appeared at the end of 1989. The film showed the raiding party looting a village and driving away a tractor and all the other bits of development aid that some good people
Column 657had no doubt saved for, to enable money to be spent to provide that aid. The party set fire to the village hospital, or clinic. We are up to our necks in that sort of activity. I should like to hear today--perhaps I shall not hear it today--the truth about what is going on. I predict that the Minister will choose his words with great care.
There is another little matter that will be of interest to students of Government policy on Cambodia.
When the hon. Member for Broxtowe and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley visited Cambodia in September last year to witness the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, they were surprised to discover that the official guest list contained the names of two Englishmen--Mr. Christopher Edward Wollaston Mackenzie Geidt, a name one cannot forget in a hurry, who worked for the Royal United Services Institute which is based in Whitehall and partly funded by the Ministry of Defence ; and Mr. Anthony Leigh de Normann, who appears to be a member of one of our older families, too. Mr. de Normann was until recently, before he departed for Cambodia, a captain in the Royal Hussars.
When I asked the Ministry of Defence in what capacity these gentlemen were visiting Cambodia, I was told in a written answer on 18 December that it was at the invitation of the Hanoi Institute for International Relations. That is not true. According to covering letters and their visa applications Mr. Mackenzie Geidt's and Mr. de Normann's visit was at their initiative. Once they got to Cambodia their visit may have come under the auspices of the Hanoi institute--that would be fairly common--but the initiative came from them, so let us have no more nonsense on that point.
What is more, Mr. Mackenzie Geidt appears to have been rather economical with the truth in his visa application. In his letter to the Vietnamese embassy dated 11 September last year and written on RUSI notepaper, he says he is travelling
"as a representative of the Royal United Services Institute". He signs himself, "Assistant Director" and describes Mr. de Normann as his personal assistant.
Yesterday I talked to Group Captain David Bolton, the director of RUSI who, by a happy coincidence, is a native of Sunderland, so we had a lot in common, at least to start with. He told me that Mr. Mackenzie Geidt worked at RUSI from March 1988 until April 1990, not as assistant director but as an assistant to the director responsible for fund raising. He was self- employed ; his job was purely administrative and it had nothing to do with Cambodia, the far east or any aspect of policy. Group Captain Bolton told me that Mr. Mackenzie Geidt did not travel to Vietnam and Cambodia as a representative of RUSI, and had had no business to be passing himself off as such. Of Mr. de Normann, RUSI had no record.
Again I ask what Mr. Mackenzie Geidt and Mr. de Normann were doing in Cambodia. On whose behalf did they go? To whom did they report? I gave the Minister notice of these questions--
Mrs. Clwyd : I have here what was described as the official guest list of the people who witnessed the Vietnamese troop withdrawal between 21 and 26 September 1989. As my hon. Friend knows, there were no official British visitors present to witness the withdrawal, because we do not recognise the Government of Cambodia. On the list, as guests Nos. 74 and 75 are
Column 658someone called Anthony Norman from Great Britain and someone called Mackenzie, also of Great Britain. They are described as
"Fonctionnaire de l'Institut de Recherche Min Defence." That is what I, my hon. Friend and others have been trying to find out the truth about. That is why I have asked the Prime Minister for a public inquiry. I am not making allegations. Like my hon. Friend and others, I am asking for the truth. So far we have not been able to get at it.
One might ask how it comes about that British taxpayers' money and British soldiers have been used and, in one way or another, are still being used to train Khmer terrorists in support of one of the most odious regimes in living memory. What possible interests can that serve in an area of the world in which we have little historic connection, yet in which we are training terrorists to plant mines to blow off the legs of Cambodian rice farmers? The is answer is, as I said at the outset, to be found in our satellite status in relation to the United States, of which this episode is only the latest and most humiliating example. I suspect that our Cambodian policy did not originate in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence : it began in Downing street. No doubt it was a product of the love affair between the Prime Minister and former President Reagan.
Some time in the mid-1980s the Prime Minister allowed herself to be persuaded to send the SAS to help the Americans with their latest crazy adventure in Indochina. Something similar happened during the Vietnam war when I believe a few SAS men found their way there. It may have been intended to confine the help to the Sihanouk and Son Sann factions, but somewhere along the line it got out of hand and we have ended up training the Khmer Rouge.
Anyone who saw the remarkable interview on "Blue Peter" on 19 December 1988 will realise that the Prime Minister has a view of the situation in Cambodia which is wholly different from that of all other informed observers. She said :
"I think there are probably two parts of the Khmer Rouge. Those who supported Pol Pot, and then there is a much more reasonable grouping within that title Khmer Rouge".
When the interviewer expressed surprise at that she replied : "I am assured by people who know."
Who assured the Prime Minister that there are reasonable Khmer Rouge, and who are they? This, is the question that caused Lord Brabazon to self- destruct in front of the television cameras a year ago. I invite the Minister to tell us who these reasonable Khmer Rouge are, and where they may be contacted.
Short of a miracle, the Khmer Rouge stand a good chance of coming back to power in Cambodia. They already control a large part of the countryside. The familiar atrocities are already taking place. Within the past few months there have been a number of attacks on trains when everyone connected with the Government has been taken off and murdered on the spot. We shall have to live with the knowledge that British soldiers, British taxpayers and the British Government have in one way or another helped to bring about the return of the nightmare.
I repeat that nothing I say reflects on the Minister personally. I urge him to put aside the claptrap in his brief about our abhorrence of the Khmer Rouge and about all
Column 659the work that we are doing for a peaceful settlement and to concentrate on telling the House the truth about what we have been up to in Cambodia.
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe) : I am always pleased to take part in debates on Cambodia. I have been fortunate enough to initiate most of the Adjournment debates on it in which we have exchanged views across the Floor of the House.
My interest in this area started when the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs visited Vietnam and all the ASEAN countries in 1986, since when I have been able to visit Cambodia in 1987 and 1989. I share the sense of injustice about the Cambodia situation expressed by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). I share his sense of injustice about what the innocent people there have suffered, but I do not share his desire to bring in a lot of extraneous issues. We desperately want an end to the conflict and a better future for the Cambodians, and the hon. Gentleman did not deal at all with the excellent work being done by the permanent five--
Mr. Mullin : The hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair in saying that I did not deal with that. I appreciate that he disagrees with my interpretation of the agreement which it is being attempted to impose on Cambodia, but I dealt with it at some length and I should be grateful if he would acknowledge that.
Mr. Lester : I do acknowledge it, and I do not want to conduct a battle across the Floor of the House. My concern is for the Cambodians. The unilateral disarmament of the Hun Sen regime was not part of the document, and the hon. Gentleman did not refer to the five parts of the document which are essential for elections, human rights and so on. I admit that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the matter, but he did not give it the weight and credibility that I hope to give it.
In a sense, I also share the hon. Gentleman's view of the historical perspective, although it is easy in 1990 to forget the situation in 1979. Pol Pot had been perpetrating wicked policies on his people in 1975 and the world had sat on its hands, unable to think of any way of intervening. As the hon. Gentleman says, the Vietnamese swept into Cambodia. I suspect that that was not for humanitarian reasons but because there was a pro-Chinese regime on their borders. One of the great benefits of that invasion was that it deposed Pol Pot and brought that terrible period to an end. Many people in south-east Asia were afraid of the Vietnamese, who had the biggest standing army in the area. People will remember the domino theory. It was said that the Vietnamese would sweep into Thailand and Laos and move down the peninsula. It was for that reason that the ASEAN group of nations came together and, with the Americans, signed a defence treaty with the Thais. As a consequence, the whole weight of the United Nations was subsequently turned to getting the Vietnamese to withdraw.
The difference between the situation in Africa and Tanzania and that in Cambodia was that the Tanzanians withdrew. I greatly regret that, at that time, none of us
Column 660could advise the Vietnamese not to make statements about the great grouping of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. They could have said that they had dealt with their own security situation and had driven into Thailand the hostile force that was attacking them. They could have said that they had relieved the situation in Cambodia, and could have asked the world to repair the damage caused by Pol Pot. If they had taken that line, we would not be deploring the current situation. That is the real historical perspective.
I share the hon. Gentleman's view about the coalition. I have said in the House that it was cobbled together for a specific reason. It is a difficult horse to ride, and it is even more difficult now that the Vietnamese have withdrawn. It is difficult for western Governments to justify recognising two thirds of the coalition. The hon. Gentleman did not mention that, in theory, the coalition is an external Government of Cambodia, although it is not recognised by the British Government as legitimate. Prince Sihanouk was the president and Son Sann was the Prime Minister. The Khmer Rouge is at the United Nations because its representative was the Foreign Minister. It was not that there was some magical arrangement to restore the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot to power. The coalition was formed from external Khmers, and that formulation has given the Khmer Rouge access to diplomatic channels. As a result, it has gained a great deal of prestige.
This is not a peculiarly British view. The credentials committee of the United Nations has consistently supported that formulation. On many occasions last year and the year before, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and I tried to do something about that because we did not want that to continue, especially after the Vietnamese had withdrawn from Cambodia. That is the true position ; there is no cobbled-up scheme in which we have said, "Dear Pol Pot, we want to restore you to power and will therefore give you a seat at the United Nations."
My concern all along about Government policy is that it has not moved with the times. When the Select Committee went to Vietnam, it was told by the Vietnamese that they would leave Cambodia by 1990. The Vietnamese are straight talkers ; anyone who has negotiated or talked with them will admit that. I suspect that their reason for leaving Cambodia in 1990 was that, by that time, they would be sure to have trained sufficient of the Hun Sen regime troops to sustain the security situation.
All my colleagues on the Select Committee believed them, and we suggested at that time that we should start to build bridges. That is what must be done if we want to see an end to the conflict in south-east Asia. I am happy to say that the Americans are now starting to talk directly to the Vietnamese Government at a high level. That is essential.
At that time, we suggested that the right thing to do was to take the Vietnamese at their word. We should have told them that in the meantime we recognised that there were enormous redevelopment needs in Cambodia and Vietnam. We should have started to talk to them then about what needed to be done when they left Cambodia. By talking to them in that way, we would not have been wielding a constant stick but offering a carrot and a little humanity and concern for the fact that, for one reason or another, these people have endured 40 years of war and conflict, which have had a devastating effect. Our suggestion was not accepted. I suspect that it was not believed that the Vietnamese would leave Cambodia. One of our Ministers came back from a visit and told me,
Column 661I think in March, that he did not think the Vietnamese would leave when they said they would in September 1989. I told him that they would be gone by September, and asked what Government policy would be then I was one of those who saw the withdrawal.
If we want to get our policy right in solving the problem, and if we want to play a full part, we must recognise the coalition Government as legitimate. Over the years, we have given generous help in a way that many people do not understand to those in the camps on the Thai border. Those camps are closed. Some people are in camps run by Prince Sihanouk, some in camps run by Son Sann and other camps are run by the Khmer Rouge. There is no interchange. People cannot move from one to another.
Many of us saw the camps in daylight, at which time they are well presented and give one a sense of welcome that few places would offer. However, the situation is quite different at night. Our Government have sent policemen there to instil into the camps a sense of proper order and humanitarian living. Although we have done that, we have never recognised the coalition.
Even if we do not recognise the Hun Sen regime, we should at least talk to them. How can we develop the right policy unless we have interchange and understanding? A week on Tuesday, I raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who agreed that, as we recognise neither of the sides that form the supreme national council, and as every member of that council is acceptable to every other member, now is the time to start a dialogue. That would be a belated start, but at least it would be a start. I still press for that policy.
We now have an embassy in Bangkok, and I think that we were the first country to send a diplomat to Phnom-Penh after the Vietnamese withdrawal. He had strict instructions not to talk to the Government there but to deal with the aid programme that I have mentioned. His job was to see how we could begin to offer humanitarian aid through the United Nations and the non-governmental officers who work there for much of the time.
When we returned from our first visit, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I went to see a Minister at the Overseas Development Agency. Our reception was helpful, and we were able to persuade the Government to begin joint funding. Until then, all the work carried out by non-governmental organisations in Cambodia had been done entirely at their own expense. Hon. Members will know that the ODA, jointly with non- governmental organisations, funds pound for pound schemes which they put forward. That has been going on since 1987. I shall deal later with the aid situation.
I part company with the Opposition about what is in the best interests of the people of Cambodia. The situation is desperate, but nobody can come forward with a United Nations development aid programme to offer the Cambodians the sort of help that they need as long as there is conflict. I talked to the Soviet ambassador in Phnom Penh. He said that the Soviets helped in some ways but could not spend the budget that they allocated for their aid and development programme.
Many NGOs have told me that they cannot spend the budget allocated, because the desperate conflict prevents the distribution of sensible aid, especially the assistance that is desperately needed because of Pol Pot's activities--for example, assistance with waterworks and with developing major roads and major telecommunications
Column 662systems and opening up the country. We should ask ourselves how we can ensure a ceasefire and disarmament, and a future for the Cambodian people.
Following my discussions with Hun Sen the last time I was in Phnom Penh, I believe that the United Nations proposals satisfy the conditions that he sought. He always recognised that the Khmer Rouge exists, but he did not want it to exist in its own right as an independent power in a quadripartite system. He did not want a quadripartite system with Prince Sihanouk as an independent power, with his army ; Son Sann as an independent power, with his army ; the Khmer Rouge, with its army intact ; and himself, as just one quarter of the system. He told me that he wanted a joint arrangement in which he represented the internal regime and the coalition--faulty though it is--continued to represent the external regime. Hun Sen felt that, if the Khmer Rouge were to be part of that coalition team, it was up to Prince Sihanouk to make it possible.
For a period, Hun Sen tried to see whether it was possible to bring Prince Sihanouk on side, to join his regime. If that had happened, Hun Sen plus the non-communists who were opposed to the Khmer Rouge would have been on their own. That would have been possible if China--the principal backer of the Khmer Rouge--had been persuaded to accept that proposition. At one stage, after many of hours of negotiation, Prince Sihanouk accepted it, but on returning to Peking, he changed his mind.
A supreme national council has emerged, precisely in the form requested by Hun Sen. It was negotiated in Tokyo, but the Khmer Rouge, which was not part of the negotiations, rejected it. The matter was renegotiated in Jakarta, and there is now in place a supreme national council comprising six members of the Hun Sen regime, two members from the Khmer Rouge, two from the Son Sann group and two from Prince Sihanouk. We should concentrate our attention on that council. It may be that there is still hassle because Prince Sihanouk was not part of the team and has now said that he would like to be chairman. Some people think that he still has a role to play. I do not happen to share that view. If the coalition wishes and if the team of 12 puts its personal differences aside--we are looking to the future of a divided, war-torn country--and can accept Prince Sihanouk as chairman, I am sure that it will be possible to add another Hun Sen member. Having accepted the peace plan--or, so to speak, the camel--they are straining at gnats. If they believe in their country's future, they must come together and operate the United Nations plan.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South said that the only way out was to recognise Hun Sen. As one who has agonised over this matter, I must ask : if that happens, who provides the fire power to defeat the Khmer Rouge? Who provides the military ability to defeat the Khmer Rouge? I do not believe that there is a military solution. How much more suffering must the Cambodian people go through before a possibility is seen to work? As I have suggested repeatedly in the House, we should look for the Namibian solution, for what I hope will be the Angolan solution and for what I know will be the Mozambican solution--places where these civil conflicts exist. There are groups like RENAMO that are almost as bad as the Khmer Rouge. The Namibian and Zimbabwean solutions are a pattern that could equally apply to Cambodia.
Column 663Mr. Mullin : I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the alternative solution would be a coalition that included everyone except the Khmer Rouge. That has been the logical thing to do all along. If they chose, Prince Sihanouk, Son Sann and all the rest could form a coalition to defeat the Khmer Rouge. That is the coalition that we should underwrite, not, for heaven's sake, some coalition that includes the Khmer Rouge.
Mr. Lester : The hon. Gentleman's view differs from the view that Hun Sen expressed to me. As I asked, who defeats the Khmer Rouge? The Khmer Rouge has considerable forces. Hon. Members have seen films showing caches of arms and the rest. We know that guerrilla warfare anywhere in the world is almost undefeatable. One could go down that route only as a last resort, but I do not believe that it would bring peace and development aid to the Cambodian people and restore this beautiful country.
I should like to turn to the document that has been patiently negotiated in the principal capitals of the five permanent members of the Security Council. I am happy to criticise the Foreign and Commonwealth Office--I am on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which has a remit to do that--but it is wrong to do so in this instance without any knowledge of the diplomatic efforts that have been made to bring together such disparate people as the Soviets and the Chinese to sign an agreement and accept that they should stop backing their respective elements in the conflict. One should look at this intimately complex document, which tries to consider every possible variation that could occur.
The document refers to the transitional arrangements regarding the Administration. None of us could replace the Hun Sen regime in terms of the people who are doing the work. At one stage, it was suggested in a wild flight of fancy that the United Nations would take over the government and run it. That sounds all right, but I gather that there are only two or three Cambodian speakers in the United Nations. It would be impossible to come in from outside, take over a country and run it on that basis.
One requirement that had to be satisfied was that the regime in place should not in the interim initiate policies and take actions that the Chinese regarded as wrong and unfair. That is not an unreasonable negotiating position. According to the document, the Hun Sen regime will stay in place, with the United Nations supervising five key Ministries. Much can depend on what one means by "supervise". As I see it, that fulfils the conditions that Hun Sen wanted, and enables the solution to move forward.
I want to deal now with the military arrangements during the transition period. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South talked as though the only people who would be disarmed were the Hun Sen supporters, which would leave the whole country to be taken over by the Khmer Rouge. However, when one reads the military arrangements, one realises that they contain many important provisions. They refer to
"Liaison with neighbouring governments over any developments in or near their territory which could endanger the implementation of the comprehensive political settlement ... Monitoring the cessation of outside military assistance to all Cambodian parties Locating and confiscating caches of weapons and military supplies throughout the country".
It is constantly argued that the Khmer Rouge has two years' supply of arms in caches, but that point has been dealt with.
Column 664The document also refers to
"Undertaking training programmes in mine clearance."
I share the feeling about the wickedness of the mines, which have been laid not only by the Khmer Rouge, but by all parties in the conflict. The Khmer Rouge has used them to try to destabilise villages. Mines have been floated down the Mekong and have been laid indiscriminately in paddy fields because the Khmer Rouge is trying to undermine the regime. Mines have been planted throughout Cambodia for a long time and it is a desperate situation. We want a ceasefire so that the mines can be detected and removed.
When dealing with the ceasefire, the document says :
"all forces will begin regrouping and relocating to specifically designated cantonment areas under the supervision of UNTAC. While the forces are in the cantonments, their arms will be stored on site under UNTAC supervision."
That is what happened in Namibia. We are talking not about a one-sided disarmament, but about a multi-sided disarmament of all parties.
Item 19 states :
"UNTAC will then initiate a phased process of arms control and reduction in such a way as to stabilize the security situation". The document does not talk about undermining the security situation. If it was such as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South has described, I would share his view. However, the UN proposals are designated to stabilise the situation and to build confidence among the parties to the conflict.
The military element is the only hope. The one way in which we can deal with the Khmer Rouge is within this framework, backed by the Chinese and by the Thais. We must contain the Khmer Rouge and disarm it--and, of course, do the same for the other forces in the area. That will allow people to come back as individuals to take part in the elections, and no one disagrees about the desirability of moving towards elections.
It is easy to utter the phrase "free and fair elections". I am not sure that there are enough Cambodians left to form a Government and an Opposition through elections. I hope that there will be a coming together. One reason why I do not support the recognition of the Hun Sen regime-- although I support maximum contact with it--is that, if one goes to the country and looks at the aid programme and at what people are trying to do, one sees that there are not enough Cambodians in the country to interface with those who want to help. There are not enough Cambodians in the departments or in planning because Pol Pot killed the majority of those who worked there.
The only hope for a genuine aid programme and for a genuine future for Cambodia is a coming together of those who now live outside the country and those within it. I base that comment on my feeling that, until there is an interface and people work together, any aid programme, including the United Nations Development Programme, will be frustrated by a sheer lack of people, however much we want to spend.
We hope that free elections will take place. We do not know whether they will produce something more in line with a Government of reconciliation, who will recognise the tremendous problems with which they have to deal. I should like to feel that that will be the case. The supreme national council exists and has agreed to the framework agreement. All of us who have the interests of Cambodia at heart should now be working in every way possible to enable the council to function and to get over
Column 665the long-held and understandable bitterness in an effort to begin to initiate the United Nations plan. The plan has been worked over patiently since the meeting in Paris a year ago last August in all the capitals of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The plan now has the good will of those members and of the whole of the United Nations machine. The plan is now mandatory for the United Nations and includes a mandatory provision for the necessary finance.
When one talks to some senior Foreign Office people, one realises that they are concerned that the cost will be enormous ; there is no provision yet in the Foreign Office budget to implement the plan which, along with other members of the United Nations, we are mandatorily obliged to support.
The plan is the best way to defeat the Khmer Rouge. I accept that either side could be be planning a new offensive to try to take political or military advantage, but I do not believe that any other solution is possible. The United Nations resolution calls on both sides to exercise maximum restraint in the intervening period before the United Nations action can be taken.
I am convinced that, without a ceasefire--without an end to the conflict-- all our good intentions and attempts at assistance will be meaningless and useless. We should all be devoting our lives to considering how we can bring about a ceasefire, and I believe that our only hope of doing that is through the painfully negotiated United Nations plan. I hope and pray that the conference can be reconvened in Paris before Christmas and that all parties can then look forward to finding a solution, rather than harking back to all the tragic events that have occurred.
What of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South about military training? I have no knowledge of the matter, although I have read the repeated denials. I give a great deal of credence to the views of the then ambassador to Thailand who, of all people, should have known about it if the hon. Gentlemen's allegations are true. I have served on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs since 1982 and, my experience of British foreign policy is that a management-by-objective system is operated. The Foreign Office identifies an objective and all our policies are then designed to achieve that objective.
Given our relationship with the Association of South-East Asian Nations and our desire to see the end of the conflict and to restore relations with Vietnam, I cannot see how training Communists--or training anyone else, for that matter--in a civil war can be a part of our policy. That would be a complete departure from sensible thinking about how to achieve the objectives that the Foreign Office has identified.
I do not want to go down the highways and by-ways of the various weeklies and the various leaks. I want an end to the conflict. I want the Cambodians to be able to look forward to the future--something that has been denied them for too long.
I come now to the incident in Phnom Penh and the two gentlemen to whom the hon. Member for Sunderland, South referred. I do not know the background. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley that there was some sinister implication. I know that the matter is now the subject of civil action and that real concern exists about the allegations and their possible impact on the security of the two gentlemen. I remember speaking to them at length at the various receptions and at Angkor
Column 666Wat and the other places to which we were taken during our visit. I have always taken the view that the more people who can visit Cambodia, from whatever source, the better.
Mr. Lester : I do not care who pays for them. The more people who go there and see for themselves, the better. The reason why there has been a change in American policy is that people from the Heritage Foundation, no less, have been to Cambodia, as have senators and congressmen. They have seen what the hon. Member for Cynon Valley and I have seen and they have come back and explained that the Government are running the country, that they are not a Vietnamese puppet Government and that they deserve more respect and more contact than they have had in the past.
Now the American Government have agreed to talk to Hun Sen. I cannot understand the sinister implications of the presence of two very tall men in Phnom Penh, who travelled around with us with our Cambodian guide and then went to Saigon. I cannot understand what their motive is supposed to have been--what they are supposed to have been looking for and what they were supposed to do with what they saw, other than to form the view that the arguments that I have advanced for contact with the regime are the correct ones.
Mr. Mullin : I said nothing about sinister motives. I share the hon. Gentleman's view that the more people who go to Cambodia, the better. Perhaps it would be a good idea for Ministers to go and have a look round. Perhaps Mr. Colvin could make a visit too. If that happened, what we heard from the Dispatch Box might more accurately reflect the situation. I do not know what the men were doing there or under whose auspices they were there. But I do know--and I have given factual evidence to support my claim--that they were not truthful about whom they represented. Whoever is responsible- -whether it is the men themselves or any Department for which they happen to be working--I should like to hear what they were doing there and why.
Mr. Lester : I respect what the hon. Gentleman said, but that was not the case made in the Pilger film, which is now subject to a civil action. The case in the Pilger film was sinister and very different from what the hon. Gentleman has described. Perhaps those two men simply have an interest in that part of the world ; that might come out in the civil action. From my contacts and from the discussions that I have been involved in, I see no machiavellian plot. I see no secret service or any way in which those two people could be involved in actions in Cambodia and Vietnam which are in any way reprehensible. I am happy to leave the matter to the action to the civil court.
I have tried to be brief, but I am still completely involved in the situation and have contacts in all the different areas where most good can be done. I firmly believe that the best option for the Cambodian people is to use all our influence to get the Supreme National Council to function and begin to see the end of the conflict and the disarmament of both sides. Essential de-mining teams must also be brought in to prevent those dreadful daily tragedies of which we are all aware. We should set fair for 1991 with a real sense of hope for the future of the people of Cambodia.
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Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : I am pleased to take part in this debate on Cambodia, although I had hoped that we would have moved on apace since we first discussed this topic after the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and I visited Cambodia some years ago. As he has said, we visited Cambodia again last year and saw considerable changes. However, the continuing fear of the majority of the population of a possible return of the Khmer Rouge cannot be over-emphasised, as I am sure the hon. Member for Broxtowe would agree. That is the last thing the population of Cambodia want. Those who say that the Hun Sen Government do not have popular support should consider the fact that they have armed about 90 per cent. of the population with guns. There is a strong local militia throughout the country. If the Hun Sen Government were in any doubt about their popularity, I doubt whether they would have armed such a high percentage of the population when those guns could so easily be turned against the Government.
Anyone who suggests that the Cambodian Government do not have popular support obviously has not visited Cambodia and talked to a cross-section of the population. Instead, they are relying too heavily on newspaper reports that originate in Bangkok. They have not been to Cambodia to find out for themselves.
The Opposition believe that the United Kingdom Government have played a particularly intransigent role on Cambodia. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) has referred to the foreign Office, whose position, as on so many other issues, seems to follow the United States--a suggestion that the Foreign Office is always embarrassed by and quick to deny. That Foreign Office has barely changed its attitude for some years.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe and I were briefed before our first visit to Cambodia. The briefing was completely out of touch with the reality in that country at the time. When we returned and presented the facts at our debriefing, we hoped that there would be a rapid change in the United Kingdom Government's policy towards Cambodia. Alas, that did not happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South referred to the visit of the two Cambodian Ministers to Europe on a trip sponsored by various aid agencies. They met a very encouraging response from some countries, including Holland and Ireland. However, in the United Kingdom, although their visit was a success from the point of view of publicity, the only contact that the Foreign Office deigned to make was to send a couple of officials to an off-the-record briefing at Chatham house.
Someone who has long experience of working in Cambodia with the Cambodian people--an American--wrote a report after her visit to Chatham house when she listened to the two Ministers. She said : "The questions [at Chatham House] came mostly from a representative of the Foreign Office"--
again, I am afraid I have to refer to Mr. Colvin--
"and from a Thai embassy official [the minister counsellor ] Both were quite hostile and rude. They suggested that the Paris conference had failed because the State of Cambodia [Hun Sen's government] would not accept the involvement of the UN."
It is regrettable that other people should have been so conscious of the Foreign Office's hostility in that general meeting.