Some Progress in Cambodia


The Cambodian reconstruction flowing from the election of 1993 is incomplete. It cannot yet be hailed as victory or dismissed as failure.

The Khmer Rouge, who killed a million Cambodians in the 1970s, are still in the field terrorizing and destroying. Cambodians are not secure and reconciliation has not occurred.

Human rights organizations are rightly disappointed in the government of the royalist Prince Norodom Ranariddh and of the titular head of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk. Co-prime Minister Ranariddh is in unlikely coalition with the former Vietnam-influenced Communists led by Hun Sen.

They are stifling opposition and cracking down on dissent. Unfortunately, they have a reasonable excuse, the war in the night, the terror of land mines, the kidnapping and destruction launched at random by the Khmer Rouge.

Noble efforts at restoring rural economic and social life are going forward thanks to such international agencies as the World Bank and nongovernment organizations such as Catholic Relief Services. But they won't work if the Khmer Rouge destroy their fruits.

The U.S. did much to destabilize Cambodia in the 1970s, weakening its institutions and paving the way for the Khmer Rouge takeover. So the U.S. must be grateful for the recovery effort created through the diplomatic initiative of Cambodia's Asian neighbors.

In the long run, Cambodia must be judged by the same human rights standards as every other country. It won't have democracy until those in power agree to being overthrown peaceably. But a country paralyzed by insurrection and subversion of criminals of whom the populace is terrified is entitled to defeat that threat first.

All the well wishing of the international community doesn't accomplish that. Cambodians still need to be made safe in their own country.

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