Press Release

IKD Study Mission to Cambodia, 7 May 1997

In recent weeks there has developed in Cambodia an upsurge of political conflict, resulting in violence and deaths. The recent grenade attack at the protest rally and the news of the return of Prince Sirivudth to Cambodia made the situation even more volatile. Accusations and counter charges set against a background of the coming 1998 elections pose question concerning the country's continued stability. The rise of Cambodia from the ashes of tragic conflicts two decades long is remarkable achievement, but the recent developments have rise to growing concerns that the Kingdom of Cambodia may be in danger in relapsing into another round of prolonged and purposeless violence.

Amidst this upsurge of political conflict Cambodia stands alone. The UN no longer consider it has primary responsibility in promoting national reconciliation. The ASEAN governments have indicated their reluctance to "assist" in resolving domestic problems for fear of violating its principle of non-intervention, even though, ironically, a broad section of the Cambodian elite and opinion-leaders may welcome, if not wish for, some kind of mediatory role to protect the achievements of the last five years. In the last few days Cambodia's predicament has been complicated by the fact that some ASEAN leaders have openly questioned her preparedness to become anew ASEAN member on account of the worsening domestic situation.

This is a critical time for Cambodia. At stake are both the future of her national reconciliation and her participation in the process of regional co-operation. In recognition of these alarming trends a group of friends of Cambodia have organised a delegation to visit Cambodia. Working in their private capacities and calling themselves a "Study Mission to Cambodia"(SMC), they sought to learn first hand about the present situation in Cambodia, with a view towards offering any form of assistance that is deemed appropriate. Out of the members' common concern for the Kingdom, the SMC is determined that the Cambodian people will not stand alone and will continue to consolidate the progress which has been achieved in the last five years.

More specifically, the purpose of the SMC are as follows:

1. To understand the present situation which contains a potential for further escalation of conflict and violence;.

2. To access the Cambodians' resolve to join ASEAN in the light of the recent domestic and regional developments;

3. To forward the conclusions, including policy recommendations to the governments and leaders of ASEAN and Cambodia for their consideration before the ASEAN foreign minister convene foe their special meeting in Kuala Lumpur at the end of May 1997 to consider the question of new ASEAN membership.

Acting in their private capacities, the members of the SMC comprise the following:

1. M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Mission Leader, who is also a Member of Parliament of Thailand;

2. Mr. M. Rajaretnam, the SMC Convenor, who is also the Director of Information and Resource Center, Singapore;

3. Mr. Abdul Rahman Adnan, Director of the Institute for Policy Research (Institut Kajian Dasar - IKD), Malaysia;

4. Dr. Jesus Estanislao, former Secretary of Finance of the Republic of the Philippines;

5. Ambassador Sabam Siagian, Advisor to the Jakarta Post;

6. Dr. George Manzano, the Assistant Professor of the University of Asia and the Pacific, Philippines;

7. Professor Dr. Zakaria Hj. Ahmad, the Head of Strategic and Security Studies Unit of University Kebangsaan Malaysia;

8. Dr. Lau Teik Soon, former Chairman of Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Ong Teck Khee and Partners, Singapore;

9. Mr. Kraisak Choonhavan, Advisor to the Governor, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration;

10. Dr. Mohamed Haflah Piei, the UNDP/AFTA Consultant for Cambodia.

Over two and a half days, the SMC met with some of the leaders of Cambodia such as His Royal Highness Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh, First Prime Minister; His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Second Prime Minister, His Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; His Excellency Keat Chhon, Senior Minister of Rehabilitation Reconstruction and Minister of Finance; His Excellency Ung Huot, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Members of Parliament and Government Officials, officers of both Cambodian and international non-government organisations based in Phnom Penh, as well as diplomats and representatives of the private sector from the ASEAN countries.

The SMC members were received with great warmth and hospitality on all occasions, and found the discussion to be open, frank and highly informative. The SMC members were impressed by the general commitment to sustain the process of national reconciliation. They were able to form a greater understanding and a more balance opinion concerning the current situation in Cambodia, and their conclusions and policy recommendation will be contained in a report to be completed before the end of may 1997.

The SMC would like to take this opportunity to thank the Cambodian Institute for Co-operation and Peace (CICP) for making all the arrangements in Cambodia at a very short notice, the Institute for Policy Research (Institut Kajian Dasar - IKD), Malaysia, for sponsoring the mission, and most importantly, all those who generously received the members and shared with them their invaluable insights.

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