UN May Help Mediate Enduring Cease-Fire

A visiting UN envoy offered help to bring about a permanent cease-fire between the warring government and resistance factions in Cambodia’s northwest, First Prime Minister Ung Huot said Wednesday.

After a meeting with UN envoy Francesc Vendrell, Ung Huot told reporters the two had discussed the possibility of a UN official acting as a liaison between forces loyal to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen and resistance troops backing deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

“They proposed some kind of messenger,” Ung Huot said, adding that details of the proposal will be debated by officials at the Defense Ministry. “Whatever they agree on, then they have to propose to the government for a decision.”

A cease-fire was initially agreed to on Feb 27, with the government’s positive response to Prince Ran­ariddh’s call for an end to hostilities. The prince also called for the establishment of a cease-fire committee “to monitor the truce with the assistance of international observers.”

Moves toward a more permanent truce have stalled, however, with resistance commander Gen­eral Nhiek Bun Chhay rejecting the government terms for peace, and demanding more detailed information from the government on proposals to reintegrate his troops into RCAF.

After his meeting Wednesday, Ung Huot said that RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan was in the process of creating an ad hoc commission to “welcome back” the resistance forces into the government fold.

To date, however, there has been no direct contact between both sides, and no mediation through a third party.

Ung Huot spokesman Cheam Lamatin, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, stressed that the UN would not precisely be mediating in the conflict or monitoring the cease-fire, but would take on a “shuttle role” between the two sides.

“It is not a monitoring role, exactly,” he said. “The role would be to support the process and to go back and forward between the government side and the other side.” He added that the current UN military attache in Phnom Penh is the most likely candidate for the role.

Prince Ranariddh’s representative in Phnom Penh, May Sam Oeun, said Wednesday that he thought the prince would welcome the news.

“I think he would be very pleased to hear this,” May Sam Oeun said. “This could be the person to get the engine going. When you have two parties in conflict, it is hard to point the finger. That is why the prince asked for a third party to be involved.”

May Sam Oeun reiterated that the prince’s troops have continued to respect the cease-fire, although both sides have re­served the right to act in self-defense if under attack.

RCAF Deputy Chief of Staff Meas Sophea, however, said Tuesday that aggression against government forces continued in the northwest, although he conceded that Khmer Rouge forces, not covered by the cease-fire agree­ment, could be responsible for the attacks.

“The cease-fire agreement has collapsed 100 percent as simmering fighting still threatens the RCAF soldiers who will use self-defense in any attack,” he said. Four or five shells fell on a village 15 km east of Samraong town Monday, he said, adding they were fired from the direction of Anlong Veng, the base occupied by hard-line rebels fighting alongside the prince’s troops.

Analysts said Wednesday, however, that it was hard to see how a cease-fire could be implemented and guaranteed without more extensive monitoring than the kind under discussion.

“A genuine cease-fire requires monitors from a third side, such as a UN mission, to help implement the cease-fire and the reintegration of the troops,” one political analyst remarked.

(Additional reporting by Touch Rotha)

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