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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4485

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - Having listened with some interest to the \ speeches which have been made from the Opposition benches I cannot restrain myself in silence. Only 3 weeks ago 1" was in Saigon and Phnom Penh, and I must say something from personal observation. Let us have a look for a moment at the history of this Khmer Republic. The Khmer people once had an empire ruled from Angkor-Wat which spread throughout the Indo-China peninsula. It has now been constricted into the small country that we call Cambodia. The Thais ate into it in the west and the Vietnamese coming down from the north ate more and more into it along the coastal rivers. So, compressed into the little State where it now is, it was Anally brought up against its own Munich, as it were. The North Vietnamese entered into it through the collaboration of Sihanouk and took over large areas of the country adjourning South Vietnam for the purpose of prosecuting the war in South Vietnam. Sihanouk collaborated with the North Vietnamese. These people who once had a large empire spreading throughout Indo-China were then forced to decide whether they would see their whole country gobbled up by their traditional enemies or whether they would stand and fight at the last ditch, and this is what happened in the Khmer Republic. The people decided to stand and fight at the last ditch. They had met their Munich.

So it was that a soldier and a patriot in Lon Nol decided that they had reached this situation. I had the privilege of meeting Lon Nol, and anybody who has met him - and I think that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) has met him - will know that he is a man who lives in a modest little house. It is no palace. He is not a corrupt man; he is a patriot. He is trying, sick man as he is, to preserve what is left of what was once a great empire. These are the facts. I am told, and believe, that 90 per cent of the people in Cambodia own their own little plot of land. Communism has nothing to offer to them. Now we, miserable creatures that we are, say: 'No, we will give them no assistance whatever. It might mean the shedding of Australian blood'. The only assistance that we are giving is a small cadre of men, professional soldiers who like that profession, who are giving some training in Vietnam to selected Cambodians. We say: 'No, we should have nothing to do with them'. Are we providing them with any equipment? I saw there boys, who I would say were 15 years of age, in a platoon who had been enlisted to fight against their hereditary enemies, the North Vietnamese who are spreading their empire throughout IndoChina. I feel ashamed to think that Australians would say: 'We must extend no help to these people in these circumstances'.

Mr Bryant - I did not say that.

Mr TURNER - This is what the honourable member is saying. He is saying that not a drop of Australian blood should be shed. He is saying: 'We will have no training team in South Vietnam. We will give no help to these people. We will give no equipment. Not a drop of Australian blood will be shed. We will wash our hands of it'. This is what the honourable member for Wills said. He also referred to the Thais. May I say a word about them? He regretted the perishing of Thai democracy. I do not know whether there ever was Thai democracy. All countries have democracy. Forms of government go by many names. But it happened that I was also in Bangkok and I spoke with people who knew the situation, and what was the situation? The honourable member for Wills says that the Government has not told him what the situation is. Well, I will tell him. What happened was that the members of the Thai Parliament wanted to lay their bands on a very substantial sum of money - what I think would be called in America a pork barrel - and to spend that money in the electorates in order to win their seats at the forthcoming elections. The terrible General Kittikachorn said: 'We will not put up with millions being spent in the pork barrel to enable members to get back in their seats'. These are the plain and simple facts about the perishing of democracy in Thailand, which the honourable member for Wills regrets.

I do not want to say any more about the Thais. I have said a little about the Cambodians. I have a high regard for those people. I see them fighting for their very survival. I see poor, miserable wretches saying: 'We would not extend a single hand to help them, not even to provide professional soldiers to try to train these people who are fighting for survivial.'

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