HC Deb 09 November 1977 vol 938 cc650-2
4. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects a British diplomat to visit Cambodia.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Evan Luard)

There are no plans for such a visit. On 24th October, because of the Government's continuing concern over Cambodian violations of human rights, we informed the Cambodian Government that it was not our intention to proceed with the appointment of a British ambassador to that country.

Mr. Goodhart

I am delighted that we have protested to the Cambodian authorities about the atrocities that have taken place, but can the Minister recall any occasion in the past two years when any British spokesman has protested in any international forum about the atrocities in Cambodia? In the past four months the Cambodian régime has made 30 attacks across the Thai frontier. Surely this constitutes a threat to international peace.

Mr. Luard

There are two entirely separate questions here. First, there is the question of human rights in Cambodia. As I have told the House before, we are considering whether we can and should raise this in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The second is the question of possible aggression, of incursions across the frontier of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. It is obviously primarily a matter for the Government of Thailand to consider whether they wish to try to raise it in the Security Council or elsewhere.

Mr. Newens

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind in any representations that the British Government are able to make that deep disquiet is equally felt by many of us who supported the struggle of the Vietnamese people against American intervention and against colonialism throughout? Will he make it perfectly clear that we feel complete revulsion at the reports of these atrocities? Will he make inquiries also about the safety of Prince Sihanouk, who throughout stood out firmly against the ill-conceived and totally wrong American invasion of Cambodia, which brought this state of affairs about and was supported by many Conservative Members?

Mr. Luard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The fact that concern about human rights in Cambodia is felt equally strongly on the Labour Benches by many Members such as my hon. Friend, who showed during the war in Indo-China where their sympathies lay, means that what they say will perhaps have more impact than what is said by some other Members. I shall certainly see whether we can find some way of making that clear. I do not think that Prince Sihanouk is in danger at the present moment.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the Minister agree that what is happening internally in Cambodia is as grave as Stalin's suppression of the Kulaks and Hitler's liquidation of the Jews, and is one of the most appalling atrocities that we have faced since the Second World War? That being so, is there any reason why Her Majesty's Government should not immediately raise the matter in the Security Council under Chapter 9 of the Charter and further, or in the alternative, demand an independent international commission of inquiry to look into the matter forthwith?

Mr. Luard

I have informed the House already that the Government share the profound concern that has been expressed here about these appalling atrocities. The question is how we can raise this matter in an international forum. Because these are primarily domestic actions against the population of Cambodia itself, they clearly are a violation of human rights, and the correct forum in which to raise these matters is the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. As I have already said, we are considering whether we can raise it in that forum when it next meets.

Mr. Luce

Since the evidence suggests that more than 1 million Cambodians have been slaughtered in the last two years, and since it is a known fact that Cambodia is at war with Vietnam and with Thailand, thus constituting a threat to international peace, why have this Government and, indeed, the Western nations been so slow in bringing this issue before the General Assembly of the United Nations and thus exposing the gross atrocities of this Communist régime.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Double standards.

Mr. Luard

There is no question of double standards. The same problem arises in any circumstances where a Government are taking action against their own population, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. I can mention a number of other countries where atrocities—not perhaps on the same scale but of a similar nature—are taking place, and they are not raised either in the Security Council or in the General Assembly of the United Nations. As I mentioned before, the correct body to discuss these matters is the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In every probability, we shall raise this case, as we raised the case of Uganda, at the next meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned incursions against the territory of Thailand and of Vietnam. It may be that thre is a case to be raised in the Security Council on that matter, hut the parties that should raise the matter in the Security Council are the two countries which have been attacked.