§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will use all available means to draw the attention of the United Nations and other international bodies to the plight of the people of Cambodia.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the plight of the people of Cambodia over the past one and a half decades has been gruesomely appalling. It is no mean undertaking merely to read through the large amount of documentation about Cambodia. It leaves one with a feeling of shock, horror and shame. I should like to pay my respects to Mr. John Pilger and Mr. David Monro, who did so much practical research and related their experiences of what had gone on in Cambodia. I should also like to thank the Foundation for International Security for its Cambodia Briefing and its detailed research.
§ A renowned British journalist, John Pilger is a world traveller who specialises in visiting places of uncertainty and upheaval. He has declared that he has seen nothing to compare with what he saw in Cambodia in the aftermath of Pol Pot's Communist terror. A correspondent of The Times at the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Belsen described what he witnessed as something beyond the imagination of mankind to describe. Pilger felt that what he saw in Cambodia following the Pol Pot terror in 1979 was the same, and in some respects worse.
§ Many of us who saw the bestiality of Nazi terror can understand the revulsion of people like Pilger who were in Cambodia over a decade ago and who saw so much. The shameful agony is that it is still going on. We are doing nothing. Nay, perhaps because of inaction, we are shutting our eyes to a south east Asian holocaust. We might have had the excuse that we did not know what the Nazis were doing, but we cannot say we do not know what the Pol Pot Communists are doing in the most revolting manner imaginable.
§ Pilger explains how on 17th April 1975 he saw the devastation at the international airport at Phnom Penh—beaconless runways, deserted control tower, and pyramids of rusting cars, ambulances, fire engines, police cars, refrigerators, washing-machines, television sets, telephones, and hair-dryers, all abandoned. What is most terrible is the condition of the rice paddies and fields which were overgrown by tall grass, forest and mangrove.819
§ At the edge of towns, grass grows in straight lines, having been fertilised by human compost —the remains of thousands upon thousands of Cambodian men, women and children. Those lines marked common graves in a nation where it is acknowledged that 2 million people are "missing". They are the victims of the victory of the Khmer Rouge —the Pol Pot Communist killers —which planned all that deliberately.
§ From 1979, anyone who owned cars or similar luxuries in city or town, or had a basic education, or a modern skill, such as nurses, teachers, engineers, tradespeople or students, or those who worked for foreigners —clerks, travel agents and journalists—were in danger, many under a sentence of death. Thousands were slain.
§ In this country of ours it is difficult for us to try to imagine that in Cambodia a Royal Ballet company of 500 dancers was attacked by Pol Pot's killers and only a few dozen survived.
§ The evil ideology of the Khmer Rouge was based on the so-called revolution unleashed by Mao Tse-tung and the savagery of the Pol Pot regime was based on the return of a docile peasantry; in other words, total slavery. That meant no families, no sentiment, no love or grief, no medicine, no hospitals, no schools, no learning, no books, no holidays, no music, no post, only work and death. It was a literal hell on earth.
§ The current situation in Cambodia underlines the uselessness of the United Nations, and is a condemnation of the United Nations. The Western world seems hardly interested despite the United States action which started the genocide long before Pol Pot. One must face those facts so that they are not repeated. For example, in six months during 1973 more American bombs were dropped on Cambodia than were dropped by the Americans in Japan in World War Two. They were the equivalent of five Hiroshimas. All that horror and terror preceded Pol Pot. There seems little doubt —this is the wonderful thing about the great democracies; when they do evil they disclose it —that the documents which have been released recently by the United States Government under their Freedom of Information Act reveal that President Nixon and Mr. Henry Kissinger ordered the illegal bombing of a neutral country and provided the inferno and catalyst which gave rise to Pol Pot who then brought about, as I have said, the South East Asian holocaust. However, at that time, as the Americans have now revealed, the American people knew nothing of what had been going on.
§ The British Government have shown the correct attitude, although there are some faults which I shall explain later. Our Government's policy is the right one. They want a soveriegn and independent Cambodia. However, it was disappointing that the Paris Conference failed. The Government acknowledge that the Khmer Rouge is the source of all atrocities in Cambodia, and it will continue to be unless we consult our friends. I understand that the Government intend to do that to try to put an end to all that horror. What is disturbing, and what I 820 cannot understand—perhaps the Minister will explain —is why the Government voted in the United Nations to legitimise the present Cambodian regime which is as murderous as Hitler and Stalin were and is under the close control of Pol Pot. I hope that the Minister will explain that. The United Nations vote for Pol Pot denied Cambodia any assistance from the great international bodies. We have to face the fact that Prince Sihanouk is equally useless and is a bit of a sham. At the World Health Assembly the British delegate voted for Pol Pot's man to take over the Cambodian Seat. That meant that the resources of the world Health Organisation were denied to Cambodia.
§ Quite recently a letter was sent to our Prime Minister, to President Bush and to President Mitterrand protesting loudly at the appalling behaviour of the Western world. It was signed by some Members of this House, by many Members of the House of Commons and by people with very well-known names like Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM, the right honourable Neil Kinnock, Sir Yehudi Menuhin and Peter Ustinov. I believe that that must mean that people of all professions, as well as ordinary folk, are greatly disturbed as to what is going on.
§ This terrible story of the agony of Cambodia is made worse by the apparent international muddle. I hope that the Government will acknowledge this. I do not believe that they are entirely to blame; I think that they might have done their best in the circumstances. But they too have had to face international muddle. They must not contribute to it.
§ I felt very proud that it was Australia which demanded that the United Nations should run a transitional government in Cambodia until free elections were held. The Australians are not backward in coming forward and condemning the United Nations. They are now demanding that the United Nations, with the support of everyone, both military and otherwise, should see that a government is established in Cambodia and that Pol Pot and his hangers-on should be turfed out.
§ I hope that our Government, everybody in this House and the other place and, I am sure, the people of our country will support the Australians in their demand to the United Nations. I also hope that our Government will officially support the Australian proposal. It is meant to bring relief to the people of Cambodia, to help them on the road to freedom and relief from murder.
§ I conclude with these words. I find it remarkable that people can suffer so much who never had a chance from the moment they were born to enjoy freedom. They have always been terrified of possible murder; they have never been totally free from hunger. I believe that the civilised people of our world should demand that this must stop. The civilised nations of the world must now stand together, firm and determined to rid Cambodia of the bestial people who exist there under all kinds of pretences. They are still there; there are still the evil people used by Pol Pot. The Cambodian people have been the victims of one of the most horrible regimes in the history of mankind.821
§ I hope that our Government will take a lead and join with the Australians and the British Commonwealth to command the United Nations to see that this is brought to an end. Then the Cambodian people can be given an opportunity to rule themselves, to build their nation and to come to love their nation as we in this House love ours.
§ 8.24 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, for what he said. I endorse every word of it and perhaps I might just as well sit down and have done with it. However I shall add one or two points because I have been to Cambodia on several occasions.
The first thing to remember is that this is a very old civilisation. There were 600 years of high civilisation before the renaissance in Europe even started. There were buildings which were held in great admiration by the Chinese and which are still visited by many people. They were of a high degree of art and quality which nobody should underestimate. There was a very well developed religion which was drawn from India: the people were mostly Buddhists but some were Hindus. The Hindus are very well suited to ceremonial occasions.
The country extended over the whole of Laos, Vietnam and probably most of Thailand. It was a civilisation of the utmost importance, of which we know little in this country. It is the descendants of those people whom we see today. It is interesting that if we ask them, they will say that they were always there. Probably they were not, but still they go back a very long way. They are not descended either from the Chinese, as are the Vietnamese, or from the Thais. They are a separate breed whose origin is surrounded in the utmost obscurity.
As I said, I agree with what the noble Lord said but wish to add one point. I take these words—because it amuses me to do so —from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It says that Pol Pot was the cruellest man in the history of the world. Let there be no illusion about it.
Perhaps I may go a little into his crimes. The noble Lord said that Pol Pot took things from Mao Tse Tung; he may have done, but it was a pretty original thought under communism—the extirpation of everybody who was educated. What is "educated"? Who is "educated"? I am told that things had gone so far that if a person had a pencil in his pocket it showed that possibly he could write. Accordingly he was due to be executed. What was the execution? I shall now tell you quite frankly what I was told. They buried the body up to the neck and then they stuck a dagger in its neck and the blood shot up to two or three feet. I repeat that as a story which has been told to me. Those are the kinds of ghastly events which happended on many occasions all over the country.
We must ask this question: what is the use of the United Nations? What is the use of any of these organisations if they cannot do something to help? Where are we to stand in the world? If people do this in one place, they will do it in another. We must make it clear that we as a country stand for 822 something which makes this utterly intolerable. We cannot expect civilisation to thrive in Europe and see it destroyed in Asia. We are one organisation of people and I ask the Government particularly to see what they can do to stop anything comparable ever happening again in that country.
The Cambodians have suffered, as the noble Lord said, from bombing from the Americans and from the invasion of the Vietnamese. Now it looks possible that after a conference in Paris at which nobody could agree. Pol Pot will walk back into power. Is this going to happen? How can we stand back and let it happen to these people with whom we had the friendliest relations and who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this treatment?
I ask this, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, for raising it. Please tell us what the Government can do? I know it is difficult. I do not pretend that the Minister has an easy answer to give. He has not. But if civilisation is to last in this world we must put our minds to seeing how we can prevent such a thing happening. These are not aborigines, wild men. They are peaceful, quiet people. I must admit that in my contact with them I have found them charming and peaceful people. They have been exposed in this manner to utter brutality.
I do not know and I do not think anybody knows what the figures are. But it looks as if almost one-third of the whole population have been brutally murdered. I cannot speak to that and nobody else can, but those are the figures which have been made public. The Government should see that that is understood by the United Nations and that we are prepared to take action to prevent anything like this happening again.
I repeat my gratitude to the noble Lord for his remarks. I have tried to express my views and I hope that the Government will try hard to put some worthwhile policy before us today.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, both the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, criticised the United Nations. But the United Nations after all is only the sum total of its members. It is up to us as members of the United Nations to move in the UN for changes in the policy of that organisation, and in particular the policy of recognition of the coalition, which is completely inconsistent with the policy that we follow everywhere else in the world. We did not stop recognising Czechoslovakia when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague. We did not cease to recognise Uganda when the troops of Tanzania liberated that country. We did not suddenly lose sight of Grenada when the Americans invaded it. However, I remember that on that occasion the Prime Minister said that one could not just walk into someone else's country. That is one of the few remarks she has ever made that I agree with. However, that invasion did not mean that we refused to recognise Grenada.
On the other hand, no one could deny that the people of Cambodia were much happier under the Vietnamese occupation than they would have been if Pol Pot had continued. Whatever the motives of the Vietnamese for that invasion, it brought the 823 killings to an end. I believe that we should thank the Vietnamese for having saved the people of Cambodia from an even worse fate than the one they suffered. The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, described that fate.
The Vietnamese have now withdrawn. That is universally agreed. The Foreign Secretary and the State Department agree on that. I have no doubt that that can be confirmed without on-site verification by the United States satellite observations. So what is the argument for continuing to withhold recognition from the proper government in Phnom Penh? The Minister for Overseas Development said in another place on 13th November that we supported the resolution drafted by ASEAN on representation in the General Assembly because we believed it right to do so. That was the only explanation the Minister gave. However, she continued by saying that this did not imply that we regarded the coalition government of democratic Kampuchea as the rightful government of Cambodia, as a press notice issued by the UK delegation to the UN on 16th November had stated.
I hope that the Minister who is to reply will explain how an entity can have its credentials recognised as a member of the General Assembly when it is not a state. What kinds of entity in the Government's view are qualified to belong to the United Nations other than states? Can the Minister also tell the House why he thinks that approving the credentials of a person whose hands are stained with the blood of his fellow countrymen, for the representative is a well known associate of the mass murderer, Pol Pot —the noble Lord is aware of that —is likely to help the cause of peace in Cambodia?
Since 1980 United Kingdom policy is said to be that we recognise states and not governments. But the relationship which stems from that recognition is bound to be between governments. Cambodia is a state and we have to decide who governs that state, not whether we approve of them or not. It is not true to say, as the Minister did in the debate on Cambodia the other day in another place, that by reason of this policy we do not have to judge between competing claimants in circumstances of civil war or conflict. We are doing it all the time. There are civil wars in Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and in El Salvador. In every one of these cases we pick the obvious side —that is the side which occupies the capital, or at least most of it in the case of El Salvador, and the side which controls the broadcasting facilities, which administers the larger slice of territory and which controls the national armed forces. Only in the case of Cambodia have we violated those rules for reasons of geopolitics.
Our policy is dangerous because it destabilises the situation in Cambodia and throughout the whole region and helps to create the anarchy which might, as the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, explained, enable the infamous Pol Pot to return to power. I certainly hope we shall not be given any lectures about following the lead of ASEAN in this matter. One does not think of Indonesia, Singapore or Brunei as being among the world's foremost exponents of democracy. I wish that the mighty force of popular 824 will which is now being manifested in the German Democratic Republic, the Baltic republics, Moldavia and Czechoslovakia had also prevailed in those autocracies. But in the meanwhile let us use some common sense.
The CCDK is dominated by the Khmer Rouge and if the civil war ended in a victory for the rebels they would no doubt eradicate Prince Sihanouk on whom naive Westerners such as Mr. Waldegrave pin their hopes. If there are further peace talks, however, the Prince will continue to act as a ventriloquist's dummy for the Chinese, and their policy has so far always been to back the Khmer Rouge up to the hilt. Either way then support for the coalition means support for the murderers and torturers who massacred as many as 2 million of their fellow countrymen according to some estimates.
The Government claim that they share the universal horror felt about the evil Pol Pot regime. I am sure that is true. But the Prime Minister has said that some parts of the Khmer Rouge constitute a "much, much more reasonable grouping" than Pol Pot's supporters, and that they "would have a part to play in a future government". It is as if one had said after the last war that some factions in the Nazi party were much more reasonable than the hard core followers of Mr. Hitler and if they had only been accomplices and not actual participants in the extermination of 5 million Jews we should now welcome their active role in the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The Government have been challenged on several occasions to give the names of these reasonable persons and have failed to identify a single one of them. Once again I ask the Minister this evening to say who they are if he can. In particular I would like to know whether they include Mr. Thioun Prasith as one of those whom the Prime Minister envisages as being part of a future Cambodian government. He is the person whose seating at the UN we voted for. He was also, as the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has reminded us, a top official under Pol Pot, one of whose jobs was to lure exiled intellectuals back to Cambodia so that they could be murdered there.
The Government must also realise that aid for any of the so-called non-communist groups means aid for the Khmer Rouge. The aid we give is for the assistance of refugees in the frontier areas who are under the control of the forces in rebellion against the Phnom Penh government. The Khmer Rouge is the largest and most powerful of the groups in military terms. Any help given to other members of the coalition frees resources which are used to bolster the Khmer Rouge itself. As Evans and Rowley said in their Red Brotherhood at War.although food aid across the border undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, one of its major consequences was the political revitalisation of the Pol Pot forces".But it appears that the Government have also been giving military aid to the anti-government forces. Personally I believe the allegations which have been made by Mr. Robert Karniol in Jane's Defence Weekly and which are not denied by the Government that we had been training guerrillas at secret bases in Thailand and helping to create a 250-man sabotage battalion. Mr. Waldegrave shelters behind the rule 825 that governments do not comment on the special forces. So we promote terrorism secretly abroad while condemning it at home. The effect of this immoral policy again is to increase the chances that Pol Pot's reign of terror will be resumed.
First, we need a new policy on Cambodia to match the changes which are taking place everywhere else in the world. That country has been the victim of cold warriors in Beijing and Washington who saw the Vietnamese occupation as an extension of the Soviet sphere of influence in South-East Asia. But now Mr. Gorbachev is reducing the Soviet Union's external commitments in Europe, Africa and Asia and as one of the consequences of that process the Vietnamese have withdrawn from Cambodia. This has removed the excuse the world might have had for boycotting the Hen Sun regime and the first step should be recognition. I know that the noble Lord who is to reply has no power to agree to this but will he at least tell the House whether the British envoy whom we were going to send to Phnom Penh has left yet or, if not, when he will leave? Will he also consider whether we should not make his stay there permanent in the role of a British interests section in one of the foreign embassies in Phnom Penh such as the Indian Embassy so that we can at least have a permanent presence there as we do even in countries such as Iran and Libya where there are British interest sections in other embassies?
Secondly, we should take the lead in raising the blockade of Cambodia which has caused immense suffering to the people of that country and helped the forces of Pol Pot politically. Why is it, I wonder, that in the context of South Africa the Tories assert vehemently that sanctions never work yet in the case of Cambodia they have continued to use this means of promoting a political settlement?
Thirdly, we must ask the Americans and Chinese to stop arming the rebels. There cannot be free and fair elections so long as the civil war continues and the flames of conflict are being fanned by foreign intervention. We hypocritically condemn the Vietnamese while at the same time we are accomplices in the violation of Cambodia's territorial integrity by our own allies.
Fourthly, we should help to achieve a ceasefire, accompanied by liberalisation of the constitution, so as to allow opposition groups the political space in which they can function properly. As has been said, it was indeed a courageous decision of the French to convene an international conference in an attempt to reach a political solution, including an international control mechanism. But that meeting gave the Khmer Rouge undeserved legitimacy by treating them as equal to the other groups which have not included mass murder in their programmes.
I suggest that another attempt be made, this time under the auspices of the Secretary General of the United Nations, to bring together the Hun Sen government and the two other factions. I would further propose that if an interim administration can be formed to include those opposition groups —the non-mass murdering opposition groups —the international community should then give Cambodia military assistance to eliminate the Khmer Rouge. This would surely be more consistent 826 than the Government's policy of saying they are not supporting the Khmer Rouge, yet at the same time that moderate murderers should be let into the government.
Finally, we have to consider the position of some 300,000 refugees living in so-called civilian camps along the border with Thailand and another 50,000 in the so-called "hidden border", the name given to the explicitly militarised camps. The Khmer Rouge are said to control something like 50,000 of those, plus four civilian camps with another 50,000 inhabitants, although the number of combatants is much smaller than that, perhaps no more that 20,000. Frank Judd and Tony Jackson of Oxfam were in Site 8, one of the Khmer Rouge camps, at the beginning of last month, and they reported military activity there as well as the diversion of UN food aid to the Khmer Rouge terrorists. Then there are two camps, including the biggest, Site 2, with 160,000 inhabitants under the control of Son Sann's Kampuchean National Liberation Front, and one under Prince Sihanouk.
The Chinese and the Americans have been pouring arms into the Khmer Rouge as well as food and medicines, and that is how they manage to dominate the coalition and threaten the people of Cambodia with another genocide. Son Sann and Prince Sihanouk are pathetic marionettes, though perhaps they could be brought to life if the outside world gave a firm commitment to the eradication of the Khmer Rouge mass murderers.
In the past the Thai Government turned a blind eye to Chinese military intervention in Cambodia as their half of a bargain. The return for that was that the Chinese refrained from supporting communist subversion in Thailand itself. Thailand had traditionally seen Cambodia as a potential enemy.
But now there is a new situation because the Prime Minister of Thailand has been moving towards an accommodation with Pnomh Penh. Mr. Chatichai was to have visited Washington in November and he has signalled that he would propose a concilatory approach to Vietnam. He suggests that Son Sann and Prince Sihanouk be invited to open peace talks with Hun Sen, thus isolating the Khmer Rouge. That was said to be opposed by the Thai Foreign Minister and elements of the Thai military, who have been doing extremely well by facilitating the transfer of armaments through Thai territory to the Khmer Rouge.
However, Mr. Chatichai also stales that the Chinese endorse the step-by-step approach to peace. If this is really so it transforms the situation since it could open the way towards severing the arteries of subversion which flow down through Thailand to Cambodia. With co-operation between Thailand and China, UN observers could be stationed on the border and the camps totally demilitarised. There could even be the substantial UN peacekeeping force which Prince Sihanouk predicated as an essential condition for him to abandon his alliance with the Khmer Rouge. I recognise that we are unlikely to aim at that result, caught as we are in this country in the time warp of US cold war policies aimed at containing Soviet expansionism and gaining revenge 827 on Vietnam for the defeat it inflicted on the United States.
Unless there is a radical change of policy in Britain and the rest of Europe, however, there is a real danger of a return by Pol Pot and his psychopathic killers. They have already occupied the important town of Pailin and are approaching Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia. The fear they engender may trigger off new waves of refugees crossing the border into Vietnam and thus stimulating even larger numbers of Vietnamese into leaving for Hong Kong. By refusing a single penny of aid to the de facto government, by giving, on the contrary, both civil and military aid to the coalition and by continuing to insist on a comprehensive solution to the Cambodian problem, we have helped to bring this situation about, and if we do not change our policy now the blood of the people of Cambodia will be on our hands.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, in following the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I feel in somewhat of a difficulty because he has expressed so well nearly all the points that I had meant to make. I should like to emphasise one of the last points that he made. If the Khmer Rouge make further progress, there will be a flow of refugees into Vietnam and the economic situation there will become worse. There are at the moment something in the region of 50,000 so-called economic refugees in Hong Kong, and we appear in the eyes of the world to be extremely unpopular in suggesting that they be forcibly repatriated. The problem will be a lot worse if the Khmer Rouge step up their activities inside Cambodia.
One point I should like to make to the noble Lord is that this cause is one that is felt by the whole of the British people. In 1938 Neville Chamberlain was able to say about Czechoslovakia, "Oh, it is a far away country about which we know little", with the disastrous consequences that that had because he gave that as the reason for our failure to go to its aid. However the world has shrunk, and nearly every living-room in this country knows about Cambodia. Those who go to the movies have seen David Puttnam's magnificent film "The Killing Fields", so they know what it is all about.
Yesterday we had a most moving and eloquent debate about the fate of Nazi war criminals in this country who were involved in the holocaust of 1939–45. The major culprits of that holocaust were dealt with at Nuremberg and other show trials. Hitler himself, we think, met his end in the bunker in Berlin. But in Cambodia 1 million people —possibly 2 million people —were killed out of a population of 10 million or so. The proportion of the population thought to have died varies because there are no figures about the numbers of deaths. It is the equivalent of something like from 8 million to 10 million Britons, or from 10 million to 12 million Germans, or from 30 million to 40 million Russians in proportion to their populations.
The perpetrator of those deaths, Pol Pot, is not only unpunished but lives in comfort in Peking or 828 Thailand, where he has had operations for stones in his kidney, I believe, or other problems that he might have. At the moment I believe that he is actually inside Cambodia, having organised the capture of Pailin. His cronies —I cannot think of a better word for them —form the dominant part of the coalition government that represents Cambodia at the United Nations. As John Pilger has asked: how would we feel if Hitler had not been killed and, while being driven out of Germany, was still representing Germany at the United Nations?
I have not been inside Cambodia, but I have talked at length with others who have. I have twice visited refugee camps just inside Thailand on the Cambodian border. Those camps are supported by either the United Nations High Commission for Refugees or by the United Nations Border Relief Organisation at little or no cost to the Thais; in fact, they are supported at our cost.
The public face which visitors such as myself are shown is very different from the reality. As well as the open camps which can be visited, which are not all that wonderful but some of which are rather well organised and contain a majority of women and children, there are military camps containing irregular troops, the Khmer Rouge being the most numerous, but also the other two factions, one of which I believe we have aided in military training. They all receive arms by a secret route, mainly from China. Nobody denies that. They have made incursions into Cambodia from the camps and are doing so in an increasingly daring way now that the Vietnamese have left.
In John Pilger's film we saw how the Khmer Rouge irregulars raided a village and stole its one, much needed, tractor. Inside Cambodia, in the past 10 years since Pol Pot was driven out by Vietnam, the Hun Sen Government has slowly tried to pick up the pieces. Considering the almost total lack of aid, certainly of official United Nations development aid, they have done remarkably well; but poverty and backwardness are immense, as the John Pilger film showed us. While not elected by ballot, the government have general support and have grown in popularity. They comprise representatives from a wide section of society, including conservatives and members of the former aristocracy. Most families in Cambodia have lost a number of relatives. Even Prince Sihanouk himself has said that he has lost 30 in the Pol Pot era from 1975 to 1979. So Pol Pot and his group are very much feared, and the Hun Sen Government will not agree to any possible interim solution which allows the Khmer Rouge to form part of the holding operation.
As an instance of how humane the government are, Jim Lester, the Conservative Member for Broxtowe, who has spent several weeks on a number of occasions in Cambodia, said:Pagodas are being rebuilt and pagoda education is beginning again —hardly the action of a Stalinist Communist government".This is a de facto government with which we should do business. Certainly, we should at least begin to bring in technical aid. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, Prime Minister Chatichai of Thailand has begun a dialogue with Hun Sen stating 829 that his aim is to turn battlefields into market places as part of his "small steps" policy.
We must ask whether the senior Foreign Office official who, with an ODA staff member, is about to visit Phnom Penh will go. I echo the question of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, here. There was a rumour last week that the mission had been stopped by influence from Washington. What is it, now that the Vietnamese army has withdrawn, that stops us opening up aid and trade, if not yet perhaps conferring diplomatic recognition, with the present government of Cambodia? I suggest that at least to date —and things are changing every week —it is because we do not dare act in defiance of an unwritten edict from an unholy alliance of China and the United States that Vietnam must be punished. China resents their hegemony over South-East Asia being intruded upon by Vietnam. As the noble Lord said, the United States is still smarting from its defeat in Vietnam in 1975.
Until now, China has supported all the members of the so-called coalition, but particularly the Khmer Rouge, which has shown no sign at all that its beliefs have changed in the past 10 years. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, that that is the case. I hope that he can perhaps provide some evidence that they have changed, but I have not seen any. As my noble friend said, the Pol Pot regime was a macabre version of the cultural revolution in China.
The Minister will probably deny that our actions are in any way influenced either by China or the position in Hong Kong, 1997, or secret undertakings with the United States. However, many will agree with the 18 distinguished Oxford academics who wrote a joint letter to the Guardian on 30th November which stated:As one member of the UN Security Council untainted by historical or colonial ties with Cambodia, Britain is in a unique position to effect a catalytic change in current Western policy…it is still possible to chart a new course in British policy towards Cambodia. At the very least, we should press Britain to emulate Sweden's recent move at the UN and disassociate herself entirely from support for the opposition 'Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea' (CGDK), nominally led by Prince Sihanouk which is, in fact, a cloak for Khmer Rouge".Prince Sihanouk is a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge and has written an autobiography with that title. The academics went on to say:Whatever little we can do as individuals must be done. Time is running out for the Cambodian people. We must act now to prevent a return to the insanity of year Zero and the Killing Fields".A similar sentiment was expressed in the open letter to the Independent of the the same day from 60 distinguished people, some of whose names have been read out. Their letter was addressed to our Prime Minister, the President of the United States and President Mitterrand of France. Its final paragraph states:Our countries, all three linked with Southeast Asia by the weight of history, and how heavy that is, have the duty to give Cambodia the urgent assistance that alone can safeguard it".
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, on his initiative in raising the debate tonight. Although 830 few of us on both sides of the House have been involved, all those who have spoken so far have shown their deep interest in the subject. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord on the skilful and emotive way in which he spelled out to us the appalling actions of the Khmer Rouge over such a long period of time and the dangers involved in allowing them to come back to govern Cambodia again, whether on their own or as part of another government.
I know Cambodia quite well. I have known it for over 25 years. Like my noble friend Lord Selkirk, I had the privilege and the luck to see some of the ancient civilisation in Cambodia in that I visited and spent some time in the ruins of Angkor back in the 1960s and visited the country on many occasions. I knew Prince Sihanouk and saw Cambodia when it was governed by him and a very happy, contented place it was in spite of the fighting that went on in the surrounding countries. I also knew Lon Nol after the fall of Prince Sihanouk. I was with Lon Nol in Phnom Penh when the city was surrounded by Khmer Rouge, carrying out the same task as my noble friend who will reply to the debate as Minister in the Foreign Office responsible for our relations with Cambodia. Such was the battle that was going on at the time in Phnom Penh that we could not move outside the boundaries of the city. While I was there my wife spent most of her time visiting the wounded in hospital. So I know a little about the background of the Cambodian fighting.
Like other noble Lords who have spoken this evening I share the horror and shock at the massacres which have taken place at the hands of the Khmer Rouge murderers led by Pol Pot. There is nothing further that I wish to add this evening. We have had quite a long debate and wish to hear the Minister's reply to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and to my noble friend Lord Selkirk. I agree with many of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. I agree not with everything but a great deal of what he said.
I think all noble Lords were affected, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, commented, by the debate in this Chamber on the subject of war crimes which took place during the last world war, a debate that most of us attended. The horrors in Cambodia quite outweigh those which took place in Western Europe 45 years ago. I was in Europe at the end of the war. I saw Belsen. I saw the camp which I visited just after the war finished. I saw what Hitler and the Nazis had done. But the record of what Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge have done in Cambodia is as bad if not worse than that of the Nazi regime 45 to 50 years ago.
There is no quick solution. I believe that most noble Lords recognise that a coalition led by Prince Sihanouk and a mixed bag of people who have particular interests, none of them in line with the Khmer Rouge, cannot solve the problem. We tried it with the support of ASEAN and with negotiations in Paris but it has failed.
As was indicated by other noble Lords this afternoon, the time has come for my noble friend the Minister of State and the Government to think again very carefully. We cannot continue to be 831 perceived to be supporting a Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge operation in Cambodia. Rightly or wrongly that is how we are perceived at the moment. I realise that Her Majesty's Government, to their great credit, have already signalled a move away from the policies that we have conducted over the past couple of years. The Government appear to have stressed the need for aid to Cambodians in Cambodia as well as to refugees on the border. That is a great step forward.
Secondly, they are now at last putting a question mark over the issue of UN accreditation of the Khmer Rouge, although I share the views of other noble Lords who are bewildered as to why Her Majesty's Government voted as they did at the United Nations earlier this autumn. Thirdly, we appear to be the first Western country to have undertaken to dispatch a diplomat and an ODA official, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and others earlier in the debate. I also should like to hear that that mission is now going ahead.
At the end of October 1989 in a leading article The Times said:There is a case for short-circuiting the niceties of diplomacy, and recognising the Phnom Penh regime without waiting for a comprehensive political solution. Mr. Hun Sen's government is not a pleasant one. It holds political prisoners and has little time for free speech and multi-party politics. But it has begun religious and economic reforms, encouraging private businesses and allowing farmers to own their land. It has adopted a policy of non-alignment, and it would no longer be accurate to dismiss Mr. Hun Sen as Hanoi's puppet".By giving careful consideration and thought to recognising and supporting the present regime which is now in Phnom Pen, it seems to me that there is now a case for us to start putting in aid to stimulate the economy of Cambodia and to deprive the Khmer Rouge of the ability to murder the population of Cambodia for a second time. I hope that my noble friend the Minister of State who is responsible under the Secretary of State for our policy toward Cambodia will indeed think again.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, as all previous speakers have said, I too am very grateful to my noble friend for having introduced this extremely important subject and for having done so in his usual very robust fashion. There is no doubt that it is an unusually opportune moment to choose, as Britain's policy over Cambodia has for some time been questionable and lately has even been seen as indefensible. My noble friend and other noble Lords have described the situation. There is very little that I can add. They have highlighted the fear of a return to power of the Khmer Rouge and have stressed the need for Britain and other countries to challenge the right of the so-called coalition government of Democratic Kampuchea to a seat in the United Nations. That is of the most urgent importance.
With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, I believe that the fact that Hun Sen's Phnom Penh government was previously backed by Vietnam should not disqualify it from being judged objectively at the present time. It is important to understand the full extent of the Khmer Rouge 832 strength, lodged as it is in the legal, political, diplomatic and military framework of the country.
For instance, from a legal point of view, since 1975 the Khmer Rouge have held legal title to the United Nations' seat as Democratic Kampuchea, which is the name given to the country by the Khmer Rouge. But, from a political point of view, the key coalition activity is foreign affairs. The coalition's foreign minister is the Khmer Rouge leader who, as head of state of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976–1978, presided over the mass killings. The Khmer Rouge control coalition foreign policy. From a diplomatic point of view, all top coalition ambassadors are Khmer Rouge appointees. The coalition ambassador to the UN was a top Khmer Rouge official during the killing fields years. So the Khmer Rouge control coalition diplomacy.
Finally, from a military point of view, the Khmer Rouge have by far the strongest armed forces in the coalition. Those are tangible facts. They should be kept very much in mind when considering our attitude to the situation in Cambodia. Allowing this coalition to sit at the UN adds a macabre twist to the tragedy of Cambodia. The occupation of that seat enables the killers, the Khmer Rouge, to represent their victims and to give themselves a direct say in the future of the country that they themselves have devastated. It also prevents the United Nations from undertaking a peace-keeping role and places the UN in the invidious role of supporting Khmer Rouge forces in the border camps —a situation that has been confirmed by aid organisations such as Oxfam.
Incredibly, bodies such as the UN seem either ignorant or indifferent to the Khmer Rouge hegemony within the coalition. That was reflected in the resolution debated on 16th and 17th November, which talked of the "continued and effective struggle" of the forces under the "leadership" of Prince Sihanouk and endorsed the so-called "coalition government of Democratic Kampuchea" by 124 votes to 17 with 12 abstentions. The British ambassador abstained and presumably was ordered not to speak. It is amazing to think that the opportunity was not taken by the British Government to press a position.
A press release was issued later stating that Her Majesty's Government had never given support to the Khmer Rouge and would do all in their power to prevent the Khmer Rouge returning. But surely that is contradicted by the Government's support for the Khmer Rouge dominated coalition.
It is right to point out that the European Parliament has raised its voice and has urged the 12 EC members and the United States to isolate the Khmer Rouge and to recognise the Cambodian Government. It has said that EC policy must be to re-establish the independence of the country and to remove Pol Pot. That was reported in the Guardian on 24th November. A strongly worded joint resolution included a statement deploring the fact the Western governments have refused to support the expulsion of Khmer Rouge representatives from the UN. The economic reforms and the political relaxation developed by those in power in Phnom 833 Penh in recent months are welcomed. There are many other very strongly worded resolutions in the paper.
Obviously the concern of the European Parliament is a major factor in persuading China to move away from its previous policy of unqualified support for the Khmer Rouge. This has been manifested in China's emerging support for the peace proposals put forward by the Prime Minister of Thailand. As the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has said, those involve a step by step solution to the conflict, an international body to monitor the ceasefire, renewed peace talks and a cessation of military aid to all parties. It would be useful to know whether the British Government will be backing these proposals.
As President of UNICEF, I should like to say a word about the human background to this cruel and intractable situation. First, the result of America's total embargo on Cambodia has been absolutely catastrophic. American pressure led to the Cambodian Government being excluded from the UN and its development fund, from the World Health Organisation and indeed from a host of other international bodies. Now British aid to Cambodia stands at £402,000 for the year 1988–89. This comprises £100,000 to FAO/World Food programmes and £250,000 to UNICEF programmes. Obviously, UNICEF is very pleased that the Government have given this modest sum. It has worked in Cambodia since the emergency in 1979. Of course we stress that the policy of Cambodia is one of universal free health care. But, as it has no money, no equipment, no medicine and no doctors, it cannot bring this policy into effect.
Perhaps I may give your Lordships two of the most horrifying statistics. UNICEF works mainly with women and children. During Pol Pot's regime, 190,000 children were orphaned or abandoned. Only 2 per cent. of rural populations have access to clean water. It is the poorest provision anywhere in the world. In 1980 the figures for child mortality were 330 per 1,000 live births. That again was the highest child mortality rate in the world. That is what Pol Pot left behind him. Happily, the figure is now down to 199 per 1,000 live births. Therefore the position has improved. But what a terrible thought that it might slip back if the situation reverted to what it was.
I conclude with some questions. I reiterate the question that all noble Lords have put to the Minister. It is to ask him to confirm that a diplomatic mission will take place. Can the Minister also say whether we shall be encouraging our European partners to send a similar delegation? Indeed, it is important to know whether our delegation will attend, because rumours indicate that it may not.
With reference to the concern expressed by aid agencies such as Oxfam about UN food aid being used to support Khmer Rouge troops, can the Minister say what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to bring an immediate end to the practice? Can he say whether the Government will demand the establishment of neutral refugee camps, given the emerging evidence that many refugees are being held in Khmer Rouge camps against their will?
834 In view of Cambodia's urgent need for development aid, will the Government press the United Nations to send a development mission to Cambodia? Finally, given the fact that the Government now accept that Vietnam has withdrawn its troops, will they urge the United States and our European partners to remove all sanctions on Cambodia and Vietnam and to provide development aid to those countries? Does the Minister agree that a Khmer Rouge victory will result in a massive escalation in the number of refugees entering Hong Kong? That situation is already extremely precarious and could become even more grave.
There is unequivocal evidence to show that events are moving towards a repetition of the atrocities in Cambodia and have added new words to the world's political dictionary. The West, including this country, is missing important opportunities to isolate the Khmer Rouge, to avert the repetition of such a disaster and to do everything possible to bring about free elections in Cambodia. Surely we must not shirk such an important humanitarian issue. We look forward to hearing the Minister say that we will not do so.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the tragic situation in Cambodia, and the efforts of the international community to promote peace and stability there in order at long last to bring to an end the sufferings of the Cambodian people have rightly been a focus of concern in recent weeks. I am therefore also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, for providing this opportunity for the House to debate this important question today. I am also grateful to him for agreeing to carry over the debate from the last Session. As he noted during our debate on the humble Address, the time is now right for us to take stock.
Before I turn to the current situation and the way ahead for Cambodia, noble Lords may find it helpful if I give a brief account of recent developments. Noble Lords may know that in July and August of this year my right honourable friend the then Foreign Secretary and I attended the International Peace Conference on Cambodia in Paris. The purpose of this conference was to put in place a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Cambodian problem. The conference made a good start and there were encouraging signs that a political settlement might be possible. All the nations participating in the conference accepted a framework for agreeing a ceasefire, the operation of an international control mechanism, an end to the supply of arms and foreign intervention in Cambodia, the return of displaced persons and refugees and the implementation of national reconciliation with the setting up of a quadripartite interim authority under the leadership of Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
Ultimately, however, the conference failed on the key issue of power sharing among the four Cambodian factions during the interim period between internationally supervised Vietnamese troop withdrawal and free and fair elections. It is, 835 of course, regrettable that those countries directly concerned —notably China, Vietnam and the USSR—failed to persuade the factions to compromise. But it is important to remember that the conference stands only suspended and can be reconvened when conditions are right. Meanwhile the French and Indonesian co-chairmen of the conference have undertaken to pursue consultations with participants in the conference.
Since the conference, the Vietnamese Government have claimed that it withdrew all its forces from Cambodia by its self-imposed deadline of 26th September. As I indicated in my written reply to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, on 8th November, we accept that Vietnam has withdrawn its combat units from Cambodia. Withdrawal is an important and welcome step in the right direction. But the Vietnamese withdrawal remains unverified, and verification can take place only as part of a comprehensive political settlement, under UN supervision and control. Nor does our acceptance of the withdrawal of Vietnam's combat units absolve Vietnam of its duty to contribute to a political settlement.
We have no conclusive reports of the current military situation in Cambodia. But it is clear that the factions are engaged along the Thai border and that the resistance has taken up positions inside Cambodia. This makes it all the more important to bring the factions back to the negotiating table as soon as possible to prevent further suffering and bloodshed.
Our commitment to Cambodia has been strong and consistent. Our first priority has always been the restoration of peace and stability to a country torn apart by years of war. These are the only circumstances in which the people of Cambodia will be free to elect a government of their own choosing. Just as we made it clear that an end to Vietnam's military occupation of Cambodia was an essential step towards a neogitated settlement, so we still believe that there can be no solution to Cambodia's problems while interfactional war prolongs the country's misery. There can be no military answer to the country's difficulties.
The horror and disgust we all feel at the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge during the horrific rule of Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979 have come through fully in the passion with which noble Lords have spoken this evening. The Government share this outrage and passion. Our abhorrence of the murderous Pol Pot and his associates is clearly on record, as is our determination that there should be no place for these men in Cambodia's future. I am glad to re-affirm that now. We have no wish to see the Khmer Rouge return to power in Cambodia, and have never given, and will never give, support or assistance of any kind to the Khmer Rouge.
A comprehensive political settlement offers the most realistic route towards allowing the Cambodian people to decide their own future. But it requires compromise by all those directly involved. Above all, the Cambodian factions themselves must be brought to understand that they can never achieve 836 their aims on the battlefield, but only through negotiation. The supply of arms to the factions must cease, from whatever quarter they come. Vietnam must meet its responsibilities by helping to clear up the mess to which it has made so infamous a contribution. Those of us not directly involved in the conflict must continue to do what we can to encourage and support efforts towards peace, contributing ideas and practical help.
It is clear that the vast majority of the international community share this view. This year's UN General Assembly resolution on Cambodia attracted more support than ever before: we were among 79 co-sponsors; the resolution was adopted with a record majority of 124 countries in favour. It was a good resolution. It took account of the announced withdrawal of Vietnamese troops but did not ignore the fact that the former Vietnamese occupation was a major cause of the current situation in Cambodia. It made clear that a return to the abhorrent practices of the Khmer Rouge would be totally unacceptable. It gave wholehearted support to the principle of a comprehensive negotiated settlement over a military solution. And it paid tribute to the value of recent diplomatic efforts to achieve a breakthrough.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred to our ambassador at the United Nations. He was not instructed to abstain in the General Assembly debate on Cambodia. On the contrary, we not only voted for the resolution but, as I have just mentioned, we were among its co-sponsors. Although we did not speak in the debate, we stood fully behind the EC president's statement which was made by France on behalf of all 12 member states. We endorsed that with a press statement following the debate. I shall be very happy to show the noble Baroness a copy of that statement, should she wish to see it.
Baroness Ewart Biggs
My Lords, perhaps the Minister can tell me on what date the debate and the statement were made?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the resolution was the United Nations resolution. The statement was made on 16th November.
There has been much discussion about the matter of Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. Noble Lords will know that for this year the issue was settled on 17th October when the General Assembly adopted, without a vote, the report of the UN's credentials committee for the forthcoming year. However, as my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development stated in another place on 13th November, we shall have to return to the question of who occupies Cambodia's seat at a future session of the United Nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred particularly to the occupation of the UN seat, and raised a number of legal and technical points of UN procedure. It is because of the complexities that there is the credentials committee of the UN on which we do not sit. Its recommendations are put before the UN membership each year. Since 1982 there has been no formal challenge; that is to say, no vote on this issue by the United Nations. I say 837 to my noble friend Lord Fanshawe that this is quite a separate issue to that of the resolution to which I have just referred.
However, our longstanding position on this legal and technical matter in no way implies readiness to deal with the coalition government of Democratic Kampuchea as a government, much less support the Khmer Rouge. Our UN representative makes our position clear each year when the General Assembly discusses the credentials committee's report. I should add —and say to the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, particularly —that the occupation of Cambodia's UN seat by the CGDK does not prevent United Nations agencies from operating inside Cambodia and contributing to humanitarian relief there. UNICEF, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred, the world food programme and the UNHCR are all active inside Cambodia. A team from the UNDP has also produced a needs assessment study for Cambodia and hopes in due course to examine the situation inside Cambodia in more detail.
Now that the General Assembly debate has taken place, and with the authority conferred by the resolution, the international community must continue to look ahead for ways of restoring peace in Cambodia and of bringing relief to the suffering of a war torn people.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Experienced people who have been there to try to witness what is happening think we are getting the worst of both worlds. There is help being provided for Cambodia, but it is being stolen by Pol Pot's lieutenants. That must be the worst of all possible worlds. Aid to the ordinary people is not reaching them. It is being used by their murderers.
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, the noble Lord refers to the aid given to the camps on the border, to which I was about to refer. As I indicated in my Written Answer to the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, we are making a practical commitment to Cambodia. We have already provided large amounts of humanitarian relief: £13.7 million since 1979 for the displaced Cambodians in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, that we have stipulated to the United Nations Border Relief Operation (UNBRO) that none of the funds we contribute for humanitarian relief to the civilian population of the camps along the border should go to the Khmer Rouge. UNBRO has assured us that this condition is observed. Of course the only failsafe way for us to guarantee that nothing we provide reaches the Khmer Rouge in any form would be to cut off our humanitarian relief altogether. I am sure that that is a move which would be advocated by very few people.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, is the Minister aware of the letter addressed by Mr. Frank Judd and his colleagues from Oxfam to the Prime Minister in which he says that he actually saw food aid which was given by the United Nations in the possession of the Khmer Rouge in one of their camps?
§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
My Lords, I only hope —and I am assured by the United Nations —that it is not aid provided by the United Kingdom Government. That is the reassurance we have sought and received from the United Nations. As I say, the only way to guarantee that 100 per cent. would be to stop giving any aid on the border at all.
We also gave £750,000 last year for humanitarian assistance inside Cambodia. In addition, we are now committing a further £250,000 to UNICEF and we have invited the non-governmental organisations to submit proposals for further humanitarian projects in Cambodia under the joint funding scheme. As noble Lords said, we are backing this up with a visit to Cambodia by two British officials, one from our embassy in Bangkok and the other an ODA expert, who will see for themselves what scope there may be for a further expansion of our humanitarian aid programme and discuss the situation with aid workers there. I can assure noble Lords that those officials will be going inside Cambodia before the end of the year. I hope that that answers a number of the concerns expressed by noble Lords on that point.
As for a political settlement in Cambodia, ultimately it must be for the Cambodian people themselves to decide the form of their future government. There is clearly a role for an interim authority enjoying wide confidence, both in Cambodia and internationally, to bridge the gap between the end of military activity and the holding of fair and free elections. A number of suggestions for the composition of the authority have been made, including Prince Sihanouk's proposal for a quadripartite interim administration involving those Khmer Rouge figures which the other factions can accept but clearly not Pol Pot and his associates.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked who were these people. It is not for us or any other outsiders to draw up a list of which Khmer Rouge individuals the other factions might be able to work with. That is fundamentally for the Cambodians themselves to reach agreement on. That was the plan that was part of the Paris conference.
Great controversy surrounds the issue of what, if any, role the Khmer Rouge should play during the interim period. Let me state once again, if any doubts still persist, that we hold no brief for the Khmer Rouge. If the transition from war to peace and democratic elections can, in the judgment of those directly involved, be made without Khmer Rouge participation, we shall be the last to object. But it will not help Cambodia if some temporary solution is cobbled together which leaves the Khmer Rouge on the loose, with its arms supplies from China, its odious leadership intact and its hostility to the country and her people unabated.
The noble Lord, Lord Molloy, and other noble Lords called eloquently for more international action to help Cambodia. I am glad to report that there are encouraging signs of renewed diplomatic activity and fresh ideas pointing towards reconciliation and compromise. The Thai Prime Minister, General Chatichai, has been pursuing helpful contacts with the Cambodian factions in an attempt to find 839 common ground as a basis for a return to the negotiating table.
Two other recent proposals are particularly promising. The Indonesian Foreign Minister has suggested an informal meeting within the framework of the Paris conference. We hope that any such meeting might make sufficient progress to justify reconvening the full Paris conference, which remains the most likely forum for agreement of a settlement in Cambodia. The second proposal, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, referred, for an interim administration in Cambodia controlled by the United Nations, has come from the Australian Foreign Minister. This is an ambitious idea, as the Australians themselves admit. But it is an attractive suggestion which we and others concerned for the restoration of peace in Cambodia have welcomed and believe is worth pursuing.
Britain will continue to play its full part in encouraging reconciliation and agreement between 840 the Cambodian factions. With our friends and partners we are convinced that a return to the negotiating table is becoming more urgent, both to bring the warfare inside Cambodia to an end and to secure long-term peace and stability. We are already pursuing this objective with our fellow permanent members of the Security Council and in the European Community, as well as in our bilateral contacts with those concerned.
The Cambodian people, like all others, have the right to determine their own future, and to be free from foreign domination and from fears of a return to the carnage and madness of the Pol Pot years. We shall continue to do all we can, and to support all efforts by others more closely involved, to bring those freedoms to the people of Cambodia.
§ House adjourned at twenty-six minutes before ten o'clock.