Aussie Documents Show Asean As Reason for KR Recognition

Australia continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge regime as the official government of Cam­bodia after its defeat to the Viet­namese military in 1979 in order to maintain solid relations with Asean, according to Cabinet documents released Saturday by the National Ar­chives in Canberra.

Australia, along with the UN Credentials Committee, officially recognized Democratic Kampu­chea at the 1980 UN General Assembly meeting despite the regime’s di­minishing control and hor­rific human rights record.

Though Australia de-recognized the Khmer Rouge in February 1981, the UN continued to recognize Democratic Kampuchea’s leaders as Cambodia’s legitimate government through the 1980s.

A newly released July 1980 Cabinet submission on de-recognition by then-Australian Foreign Minister An­drew Peacock recommended that Australian Prime Minister Mal­colm Fraser follow a middle path by recognizing the Khmer Rouge at the meeting then subsequently de-recognizing them to avoid “heightened domestic criticism of yet another instance of ‘our support for Pol Pot.’”

“An immediate effect [of de-recognizing Democratic Kampuchea at the UN] would be the undermi­ning of the Asean campaign to se­cure the acceptance of DK credentials for another year, since such a move would be seen internationally as part of a general movement away from the DK,” he wrote.

Historian and adviser to the Royal Academy of Cambodia Ros Chantrabot said yesterday the new documents offered further proof that both Asean and West­ern powers were more eager to contain communism than to alleviate Cambodians’ suffering.

“Australia was an ally of Asean and the United States, which had linked with China to fight Viet­nam, which was supported by the Soviet Union,” said Mr Chan­trabot. “They cared only about the interests of their countries, not the interests of the Khmer people.”

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