Development Policy and International Relations
(Mr. Francois Ponchaud, Photo: ECCC)
On 9 April 2013, Francois Ponchaud, who is French origin but speaking Khmer for his testimony, took the witness stand in Case 002 of ECCC, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. He had been in Cambodia in 1965, so he explained the situation that he saw and experienced in Cambodia between 1970-1975. Francois Ponchaud also published a book in 1977 entitled “Cambodias: Year Zero.”
Francois Ponchaud said “Since the year 1973, we knew clearly what the Khmer Rouge did in the rice fields,” he said. “We knew when they seized a village, they burned the houses, they killed the chief of the village and people in power, and they expelled the people to the forest.” He also said the US and UN had been “indifferent” to the suffering of the Cambodians. Ponchaud gave some of his harshest criticism to Western powers for ignoring the plight of the Cambodian people. “I feel ashamed of the United Nations,” he said. “I’m actually ashamed that the United Nations is coming in and taking part in the prosecution of Khmer Rouge leaders.” (VOA)
Although being of French origin, Mr. Ponchaud detailed what happened during those few weeks in fluent Cambodian, including America’s illegal bombing of Cambodian territory which he had witnessed first hand. Mr. Ponchaud regarded the bombings as the cruelest action a person can do and took the lives of too many people. He added that the Nixon administration and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were those who committed the actions for no reason, and also called for a trial against Henry Kissinger, who is still alive. (The Cambodia Herald)
(Henry Kissinger in 2009, Photo: google image)
US and UN had been indifferent to the suffering of the Cambodians?
Mr. Ponchaud believes that Nixon administration and Henry Kissinger shall be accountable for what they committed. Under the Nixon Administration, secret illegal bombing operation was authorized without any approval from the US congress. The US bombing campaign was a major factor that caused a quick increasing of popular supporting Khmer Rouge rebel and led to success of Pol Pot’s regime in 1975. Discussion more on Do You Know March 18, 1970?
(Right: Nixon, Left: Kissinger, Photo: google image)
Looking at the UN, why it is involved in this talk?
I personally think that UN had failed to exercise its duties in 4 main reasons. First, United Nations has ignored secret bombings in Cambodia’s territory operated by Nixon Administration which caused 500,000 people died as a direct result of the bombings. Second, during at that time, even though, Cambodia has adhered neutrality but it could not sustain as Switzerland does due to it was become battle field for two blocs (US and USSR + PRC). Therefore, it was grabbed by giants to achieve their own gains. And UN had failed to take any necessary measures to protect Cambodians from war which caused by the split over of Vietnam war. Third, UN had done nothing about genocide occurring in Cambodia which another one-to-two million Cambodians died from their communist party refining, hunger and forced labour. Fourth, as of the collapse of Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge Regime 1975-1979), United Nations still recognized Khmer Rouge Leaders to hold the seat in UN even after they were overthrown in 7 January 1979. Afterward, Khmer Rough was still internationally acknowledged as one of a party for peace negotiation process even though genocide was clearly aware at a larger world.
Cambodia, US, and UN, what have they been doing after all?
It is also noted with a recognition that Cambodia, US, UN and other relevant parties have taken part contributing to some significant achievements to bring Cambodia back to peace and democracy. It was reflected in 1991 Paris Peace Agreement and the first Cambodia national election in 1993, even though peace and democracy has not fully and immediately given to Cambodia. However, nowadays Cambodia is in peace and even has stability since Cambodia itself has launched a “win-win policy” in 1998 which ended up structures and organization of Khmer Rough. Additionally, Royal Government of Cambodia and United Nations have established a trail to prosecute Khmer Rough Leaders in June 2003. However, the court can only prosecute Senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those believed to be most responsible for grave violations of national and international law for crimes committed between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979. (ECCC) In this sense, there is no need to talk about calling Nixon Administration and Kissinger for trails, but just keep them for history recorded and lesson learned.
But, what is next that everyone should be doing?
Since the Paris Peace Agreement on 23 October 1991, Cambodia was turned to a new page of its own history which democratization has been gradually adhered and rooted in society. As a concreted evidence, Cambodia has continued to respect for rules of law, good governance, fundamental freedom, human dignity and human rights, especially the continuing of conducting national elections in every five-year term. More importantly, Cambodia has opened and integrated into the regional grouping known as ASEAN and even became a member of WTO in 2004. In this sense, Cambodia is no longer isolated from the whole world as before. However, the economic growth is still strongly needed for Cambodians to reduce poverty and promote people living standard. The national building, sustainable development, and democratization process are not the tasks that could not achieve in a short term but in a very long run which starting from a single person made of many to accomplish it. Therefore, there is a demand of participations from domestic actors, international actors and development parters including US and UN to support in the every single process of development by providing both financial and technical aid and programmes. These are the right tracks that US and UN should be doing for Cambodia.
Khov Ea Hai.