HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc934-5
10. Mr. John Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on United Kingdom policy towards the Khmer Rouge.

Mr. Hurd

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) on 8 November in which I made plain the Government's repugnance for the Khmer Rouge and set out our policy towards Cambodia.

Mr. Evans

Following the recently reported attack on the Cambodian capital Pnomh Penh by Pol Pot's forces, will the Foreign Secretary give an undertaking that he will support the Australian peace plan when he meets his Security Council colleagues in Paris next week? Will he also inform them that he is utterly opposed to the Khmer Rouge playing any part in a future Government of Cambodia?

Mr. Hurd

I have seen no report of a military attack on Pnomh Penh. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the interest and importance of the Australian proposal, which would give the United Nations a substantial role in running Cambodia while long-term arrangements were made. I have discussed it with the Australian Foreign Minister and several of my other colleagues. When the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council meet in Paris this week, our representative will make clear our strong interest in the proposal.

Mr. Lester

Although I accept totally my right hon. Friend's condemnation of the Khmer Rouge, what it stands for and what it did in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, would it not he more helpful to the aim of reaching a settlement and encouraging the Australian peace initiative to recognise that the Cambodian Government, certainly within the past three or four years, have done a good job in difficult circumstances? Should we not strike a balance between condemnation of the Khmer Rouge and recognition that there is a Government in Cambodia who have worked hard in the best interests of the Cambodian people?

Mr. Hurd

I know my hon. Friend's view. He also knows that there is still widespread resentment and suspicion of the way in which Vietnam imposed that Government on Cambodia. The Vietnamese have withdrawn their Government troops from Cambodia and that has changed the position. That is why we sent a team to Cambodia recently. It had a successful mission as a result of which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced our new humanitarian projects in Cambodia. From that process and the progress made arose the Australian initiative and the meeting of the permament representatives of the Security Council in which we shall take part.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a useful role for China in the affairs of Cambodia? Might such a role have the agreeable side-effect of that country showing to the world that it is prepared to make some amends for the appalling events in Tiananmen square in June last year?

Mr. Hurd

I agree that the role of China is extremely important in this matter. Its representative will be present at the meeting in Paris and I hope that China will take note of my hon. Friend's points.

Mr. Foulkes

The Foreign Secretary is reported today as hinting at a policy shift towards Cambodia. In his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) he said that the Government are interested in the Australian proposal. Will he not come out openly today and say that Britain will abandon its support for the Khmer Rouge, which is totally indefensible? Will he also clearly say that, at the meeting in Paris on Tuesday, our representative will support the Australian proposal, the Soviet proposal for an arms moratorium and the ceasefire proposal? If the five permanent members of the Security Council are unanimous on this it will be a significant step forward in bringing peace to a country that has suffered for far too long.

Mr. Hurd

In his rhetoric, the hon. Gentleman has not noticed what is going on. I have updated our policy and I announced it to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe on 8 November. I have just repeated the changes that have been made. I believe that there can be further updating by bringing our western friends and our friends in south-east Asia forward together. I would much rather do that as I believe that moving together is the best way in which we can help, as much as outsiders can, to bring peace to Cambodia.

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