Ralph A. Boyce, Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Testimony Before the House International Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Washington, DC, September 28, 1998


"Situation in Cambodia"

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to address the
subcommittee on the situation in Cambodia.  That troubled country
is once again at a critical juncture, so I particularly
appreciate this opportunity to update the subcommittee and
consult with you on recent developments and on how best to move
forward.

When I last testified before this subcommittee in June, our
attention was on the July 26 vote and on how we could improve the
climate for meaningful elections -- the first conducted by
Cambodians themselves.  Despite the persistent fear and violence
during the campaign that threatened to invalidate the entire
process, in the end, we believe the July election was indeed
meaningful.  Cambodian voters bravely turned out in large numbers
on election day, demonstrating faith in the integrity of their
ballot and providing dramatic proof that intimidation did not
prevail over the Cambodians' deep desire for a voice in their
future.  The consensus view of international and domestic
observers after the voting was that Cambodians by and large
seized the opportunity, in orderly and peaceful circumstances, to
make their voices heard through the ballot box.  The result?
Some six out of ten voters cast their ballots for a party other
than the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).  We see this as a
credible expression of the free will of Cambodians.

This is the undeniable good news of this election -- the deep
desire for democracy evident among the over 90 percent of
Cambodia's eligible voters who turned out on July 26.  But a
conflict-ridden post-election period has threatened to eclipse
this news.  After the July 26 vote, we were confronted by
opposition charges -- both serious and frivolous -- of vote
fraud, a flawed dispute resolution process and controversy over
the formula for apportioning parliamentary seats.  Our repeated
calls in recent weeks for a thorough and impartial adjudication
of non-frivolous election disputes went unanswered.  Despite our
urgent consultations with the international community in search
of ways to promote a peaceful dialogue, we witnessed growing
opposition protests aggravated by increasingly rigid refusal by
all sides to consider compromise.  Escalating tensions, fueled by
two provocative grenade attacks in Phnom Penh led finally to the
violent government crackdown September 7 on peaceful
demonstrations, a crackdown which the United States swiftly
condemned.  The latest rocket attack against a government convoy
on the day the National Assembly convened is a terrible omen of
further violent confrontation if Cambodians do not choose to end
it.  For the United States and the international community, the
potential for such renewed partisan violence constitutes the
greatest threat to our joint efforts to help Cambodians achieve
national reconciliation through the election process.

The challenge before us today, and the key question I hope to
discuss with you during my testimony, is how the United States
can most effectively support a peaceful dialogue among the
Cambodian parties to reach agreement on the formation of a new
government which reflects the will of the Cambodian people as
expressed by their votes.  We believe that genuine power-sharing
in a coalition government offers the best hope for a durable
peace and true national reconciliation.  The question is what the
Cambodians themselves are willing to do in the next days and
weeks, and what can we do to help support an outcome in the best
interests of the U.S., Cambodians and the region.

The Election: A Credible Outcome

The actions of the United States, in concert with ASEAN and the
international community, deserve much credit for helping to
create the conditions for what has been deemed by most
international observers and the international community to be a
credible election result, even if the overall process -- despite
our best efforts -- remained blemished in important respects.
Our efforts over the past year, coordinated closely with the
ASEAN Troika nations and the Friends of Cambodia, helped
reestablish the basic framework for credible elections: together
we orchestrated the conditions for the safe return of exiled
opposition leaders, including Prince Ranariddh, so that the
Cambodian people could have clear choices at the polls.

While maintaining our suspension of aid to the Cambodian
government, the United States continually pressed the Cambodian
authorities for more steps to strengthen the climate for free and
fair elections.  Our Ambassador delivered numerous direct
messages to the Cambodian authorities on all issues relating to
the fundamental fairness of the process and the importance of
eliminating the climate of intimidation.  We and the
international community worked together to promote -- with all
parties -- the importance of a peaceful campaign.  Though our
joint efforts helped improve the campaign climate, in the end we
must recognize that the climate of fear and intimidation in
particular, a clear hold-over from the still uninvestigated
political killings of July last year, persisted through the
campaign.

To address this intractable climate of impunity, the United
States worked to bolster the international and domestic election
monitoring effort in the hope that it would mitigate the effects
of political intimidation and help deter campaign abuses and
campaign-period violence.  Accordingly, we focused our efforts on
supporting Cambodian election and human rights NGOs, and the work
of the UN in fielding as many international and domestic election
and human rights monitors as possible.  We provided training and
funding to support some 15,000 Cambodian election observers
through the Asia Foundation, NDI, IRI and Cambodian NGOs who
monitored the polling process the week of the actual vote.  They
were joined by nearly 700 international observers, including over
150 funded by the United States.  We believe this effort
contributed to the high voter turnout and orderly balloting on
election day.  Indeed, despite fears that widespread violence
could mar voting day, only one serious incident -- a deadly
attack by Khmer Rouge terrorists on poll officials -- took place
on July 26.

The enthusiastic participation of the Cambodian voters was
dramatic proof that the people truly believed that their votes
mattered.  As they did in the 1993 election, the Cambodian people
again overcame great odds to exercise their right to vote.
According to the initial assessments of most international
observers, as well as the independent reputable Cambodian NGOs,
the Cambodian people appeared to have been able to vote freely on
election day.

The Post-Election Period

Unfortunately, the initial optimism voiced by the international
observers did not carry over into the post-election period.
After the vote ended and charges of voting irregularities were
brought forward, we called for a full and impartial adjudication
by the Cambodian election bodies entrusted with the people's
vote.  Some of the recounts demanded by the opposition were
carried out, and many of the allegations turned out to be
frivolous.  But some of the recount requests that were summarily
dismissed appeared to be legitimate in the judgment of
international observers.  These should have been reviewed but
were not.  Another controversy also surfaced over the formula for
deciding which party won how many seats in the National Assembly.
While the facts of this controversy may forever remain unclear,
the electoral authorities responsible for adjudicating this
dispute refused to do so.

We are disappointed by this failure to adequately address the
legitimate questions raised by the opposition. Indeed, this lapse
by the Cambodian electoral authorities represents a lost
opportunity to have strengthened the credibility of the election
process and to have renewed the Cambodian people's faith in their
national institutions.

A final point here on the credibility of the election outcome:
to the best of our knowledge, even completion of the recounts
would not have significantly altered the overall outcome or
deprived the CPP of its plurality.  The independent and reputable
Cambodian NGO, COMFREL, which fielded over 15,000 poll watchers,
conducted its own parallel count on election day; it is worth
noting that, by COMFREL's count, the CPP also won a clear
plurality of the vote.  This does not, however, change the basic
fact that six of ten voters chose a party other than the CPP --
an outcome we believe should also be respected.

Efforts to Forestall Violence

The opposition's unresolved concerns led, unsurprisingly, to an
immediate political stalemate.  The initial offer by the CPP to
form a coalition government with both major opposition parties
was rejected out of hand by opposition leaders until their basic
election complaints were addressed.  At the same time, the
opposition organized protests to reject the election and the
ruling party's legitimacy.

Confronted with mounting tensions and increasingly provocative
actions by all sides, the United States urged the Cambodian
government to address the outstanding questions from the
election; we actively consulted with the international community
to discuss ways to support a political solution to an
increasingly dangerous stalemate.   In the end, the atmosphere of
mutual distrust, inflexibility  and provocation led to violence
when government forces clashed with demonstrators earlier this
month.  The U.S. swiftly condemned the use of lethal force in
quelling peaceful demonstrations; we urged restraint in direct
terms to the authorities.  We are deeply troubled by the UN
Center for Human Rights's report on deaths related to the recent
demonstrations; we continue to stand for full investigation into
all political killings in Cambodia as documented by the UN Center
for Human Rights.  We have again instructed our Ambassador to
register with the government our strong concern for the safety of
opposition leaders.

United States policy in response to this rapidly unfolding
situation has been clear:

-- We call for an end to all violence; lasting peace in Cambodia
can only come through peaceful negotiations;

-- We support democracy and a democratic process, not any party
or personality in this process, despite the possible efforts by
some in Cambodia to suggest that our defense of democratic
principles favored one faction or another;

-- We have clearly and consistently stated our view that the
international community should remain engaged to support a
peaceful dialogue leading to new governing arrangements which
reflect the votes of the Cambodian people;

-- We believe that a political solution, building on the credible
outcome of this election, offers the best hope of managing the
deep political divisions in Cambodian society; and,

-- We believe that the best hope for genuine national
reconciliation and durable governing arrangements is agreement
among the Cambodian parties for genuine powersharing in a
coalition government.

Snapshot of the Current Situation and Next Steps

As I appear before you today, the situation in Cambodia is
calmer.  When the violence broke out, we actively coordinated and
supported efforts to help broker a return to peaceful dialogue.
The special efforts of Thailand, the UN and Japan in particular
were instrumental in securing agreement of all the parties to
meet with King Sihanouk, who continues to play a central role as
a force for national reconciliation.  That meeting took place on
September 22, leading to the agreement to convene the National
Assembly on September 24.

But we are not out of the woods yet.  The negotiation among the
parties on the formation of a new government has just begun.
Numerous obstacles and issues remain on the table, including the
opposition's principal complaints about vote irregularities and
seat allocation.  Of particular concern, the government has
banned travel outside the country of most opposition leaders --
save Prince Ranariddh -- on the grounds that many of these
leaders may have committed illegal acts during the recent
demonstrations.  Regardless of the legal rationale for this
action, we see this as clearly coercive when priority should be
placed on rebuilding a basis of trust for a peaceful dialogue. We
and the international community have forcefully expressed our
views that the travel ban should be lifted immediately and
without conditions.  We oppose the coercive atmosphere created
during the negotiations by the government's reference to possible
arrests.

Nevertheless, we now have a tentative process in place -- through
the sitting National Assembly -- for the Cambodians to work
through the issues that divide them and continue work on forming
a new government.  That process continues as we speak here today
and we will update you as we learn more.

Next Steps for the International Community

We will continue to use the leverage we have available to
encourage all the Cambodian parties to work peacefully and
cooperatively to form a new government in close consultation with
King Sihanouk, whose unifying presence remains critical.
Secretary Albright met last week in New York with our colleagues
in what we formerly called the ASEAN Troika and the Friends of
Cambodia to discuss ways to stay engaged as we monitor how this
process unfolds.  Secretary Albright clearly expressed our view
that Cambodia's UN seat should remain vacant until we see a new
government formed in accordance with Cambodia's current
constitution and reflecting the votes cast by the Cambodian
people.  We and our colleagues in the international community
agreed on the importance of continued engagement during this
important phase, and the general principle that no actions be
taken prematurely, such as early admission to ASEAN, while
Cambodia's future government remains undetermined.   Finally, the
United States will not alter its policy on suspension of aid to
the Cambodian government until we see how a new government is
formed.

To conclude, the United States remains engaged. There is at this
point some cautious optimism that the Cambodian parties are
working seriously toward new governing arrangements.  We are not,
however, foolishly optimistic that we are there yet.  There are
many obstacles to be overcome.  The next days and weeks will be
crucial.   When and if a new government is formed that is
acceptable to the Cambodian people in accordance with the current
constitution, we will want to consult further with you on our aid
policy and the question of building civil society and addressing
Cambodia's pressing humanitarian needs over the longer-term.  I
should also note that even with the current focus on the
formation of a new government, we remain committed to the goal of
bringing to justice the senior Khmer Rouge leaders guilty of
crimes against humanity.  Finally, we appreciate the close and
cooperative consultation we've had with this subcommittee on
managing our policy toward Cambodia.  I look forward to hearing
your views and advice.


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