HL Deb 17 March 1993 vol 543 cc1441-3

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

What reports they have received about difficulties faced by humanitarian agencies working in Cambodia, and what action they are taking together with the United Nations to protect these operations in future.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, ceasefire violations and banditry remain a threat to agencies and personnel, particularly in remote areas. Our mission in Phnom Penh maintains close liaison with the agencies on their activities and on security. UNTAC will remain in place until three months after the elections, due in May. The UN is considering the likely post-electoral security arrangements.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware of the specific problems in Cambodia? I refer to the failure of the Khmer Rouge to comply with the UN policy, the renewed military clashes to which she has referred, the continued laying of anti-personnel mines and inadequate resources for the huge and urgent mine clearance operation. Is she in fact confident that the UN has the presence and resources effectively to supervise the forthcoming elections, the inauguration of the new government and the drafting of the new national constitution? What is the Government's policy towards ensuring that adequate resources are available to the UN?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we deplore the Khmer Rouge's refusal to fulfil their obligations under the comprehensive political settlement and we fully endorse Security Council Resolution 792 which calls for measures to be taken against any Cambodian party not complying with the military provisions of the Paris agreements. We have also called on all parties to desist from offensive military activity and to take every action necessary to safeguard the lives and security of all the personnel working for UNTAC and the humanitarian agencies in Cambodia. Further to that, we have indeed had discussions in New York because we believe it is right that the UN should make proper provision not only to carry through the elections when that time comes but to carry out any mandate given to it by the Security Council. As the noble Lord knows, not all members, sadly, pay their contributions in full or on time. We aim to do so and we urge everyone else to do likewise.

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, who exactly is in charge of Phnom Penh? Is there anyone effectively forming the government there?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, my noble friend asks an interesting question. While there is a so-called government in place it is very difficult to know whether they are actually calling the shots. One of the things that has occurred since the transitional authority in Cambodia has been run there by the UN is that we are finding out who tells the truth and who does not. I hope that this will emerge clearly when it comes to the elections.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, I welcome the statement made by the Minister. What action are the Government taking to discourage external intervention—for instance, from the People's Republic of China and from the Thailand Army? Does she feel that three months is long enough for the UN to stay there after elections which could conceivably be indeterminate? Are the Government and the UN prepared to consider a longer period if circumstances justify it?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, we are working with our partners in the United Nations to try to make sure that any outside force, from wherever it may come, ceases to intervene in Cambodia. I do not think that it is for me or for the British Government to try to second guess the United Nations over the period of three months that it has declared following the elections for it to remain. Whether it is considered necessary to extend that time will be very much a matter for when we see how the elections go. At the present time, Mr. Akashi, the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative there, believes that it will be adequate.

Lord Braine of Wheatley

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that experienced and dedicated British aid workers are struggling now with mounting difficulty to bring help and relief to people suffering grievously from continuous defiance by the Khmer Rouge of the considerable United Nations forces already in the country? Is it not manifest that the Khmer Rouge's activity is a deliberate attempt to disrupt the elections in May? While it is good news to be told that Her Majesty's Government are in touch with the United Nations about this, can my noble friend say whether action will be taken before it is too late?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am always in favour of preventive action rather than having to try to cure problems after they have occurred. Our regard for the many British nongovernmental organisations active in the field is second to none. So far as concerns the disruptive activities of the Khmer Rouge, it is the job of UNTAC, which has made considerable progress towards implementing the Paris agreements, but we still have not achieved the cantonment and demobilisation of the factions' armed forces. Until that is done the security situation will remain equally dangerous.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is it not possible for our Government to make some representation to the United Nations before the so-called elections take place, bearing in mind that the Khmer Rouge are killing United States officials and agents? Because they have had no pay they are killing their own countrymen and there is a state of brutal chaos in Cambodia. The elections cannot take place in a decent way if this ugly situation continues.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that recently there have been some terrible instances of lawlessness including the massacre of 31 people of Vietnamese origin. But I believe that overall there is an improvement. We have to make sure that UNTAC can take up each and every violation of the Paris agreements so that the Khmer Rouge are seen by their own people for what they really are and to make sure that we can turn UNTAC into a peace-enforcing rather than a peace-keeping force.

Lord Rea

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Ennals, that China has played a major part, and still probably plays some part, in sustaining the Khmer Rouge guerillas who refuse to give up their arms? Would it not be possible perhaps to link diplomatically the present discussions with China on Hong Kong in such a way that we can seem to be more accommodating there if China would in turn persuade the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to accept disarmament so that that country can get on with its long overdue rebuilding?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I am not in a position to say categorically whether the Chinese supplies of arms to the Khmer Rouge, or whether the supplies of arms by anybody else to that organisation, are in fact responsible for some of the recent atrocities. The point is that there are still large caches of arms within Cambodia. As regards the noble Lord's second question, I do not believe that it is in the interests of the people of Hong Kong to try to tie up their future with what the Khmer Rouge get up to in Cambodia.

Lord Judd

My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the evidence is that the UN is overstretched in Cambodia and that there really is a very urgent need for the Government to give priority to how the UN can be strengthened and properly resourced for the growing demands being made on it in the role of conflict resolution, pre-emptive diplomacy and humanitarian intervention?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, well knows, that is a much wider question than the one he placed on the Order Paper. At this juncture I say to him that we are very aware of the increasing burden placed on the United Nations and that is why we must use all ability to be preventive in whatever way we can as regards future disasters which are manmade.

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