Despite peace pact, Cambodia returns to uncertain aura


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Two months after the Paris peace agreement on Cambodia, the relatively slow pace of deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops is creating a sense of instability in the country, and there are fears that this could lead to upheaval, according to Cambodian officials and Western diplomats.

Although a cease-fire has been largely honored by the four factions in Cambodia's civil war, guerrilla leaders admit that their troops are increasingly hard to discipline and that banditry in the countryside has escalated sharply.

Some officials even blame the rampant corruption in the Phnom Penh government of Premier Hun Sen on a power vacuum that has grown tangible since the 19-nation peace agreement was signed in October.

"Everybody is saying, 'I have to make my money now before the U.N. gets here,' " said one official.

Only about 200 U.N. soldiers are in Cambodia, part of an early deployment called the U.N. Advance Mission in Cambodia, which is designed to work only until April.

But the main peacekeeping force, which may include 10,000 troops and civilian administrators, is still being mapped out at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The world body is trying to raise funds and come up with a deployment plan for the force, destined to be the largest peacekeeping effort in U.N. history.

Last Friday, the United Nations announced that a senior Japanese member of the U.N. secretariat, Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi, had been appointed to head the full U.N. force, which now is to be known as the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, or UNTAC.

When the four-party coalition finally met on Cambodian soil for the first time in December, the only measure they agreed on was to issue an appeal to the United Nations to speed deployment of the U.N. Transitional Authority.

"There's a strong feeling here of 'Where's UNTAC?' " said a Western diplomat. "I don't know if there really is instability, but there is a feeling of it here."

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