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Wednesday, 8 December 1976
Page: 3465

Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the wholesale murder of men, women and children which has been perpetrated and which is still being perpetrated by the Cambodian communist regime for the purpose of terrorising the Cambodian people. I ask: What information is available to the Government about details of these shocking occurrences in Cambodia? Can the Minister confirm that, for the purpose of increasing the impact of their terror campaign, the Cambodian communists forbid exit from Cambodia and, as a matter of routine, execute any Cambodian refugees whom they can apprehend? Has the Government any details of the recent incident when 26 Cambodian refugees, including children, were returned across the border by the Thai authorities and are said to have been forthwith beheaded by the Khmer Rouge, that is, the Cambodian communists? Finally, will the Minister see that details of such communist atrocities which customarily occur in Cambodia and elsewhere receive adequate publicity in Australia so that such publicity may nave some deterrent effect upon those who perpetrate these atrocities and so that Australian communists who are associated with this foul movement may receive the detestation and execration which is their proper due?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) -I have taken note of the series of questions which the honourable member for Mackellar has asked. We do not have detailed information on all the matters which he has put to me. I take the point made at the end of his question about selective commentaries which are made not only in the media but also by those who take an interest in international relations about the restrictions on human rights and a prejudice even to the right to life in certain countries. It is quite apparent that many countries are selected and commented upon because of the nature of their regime. Others are left aside for that very same reason. The reality, from our point of view, is that we have difficulty in getting accurate confirmation of the charges- some evidently well founded- as to what has been transpiring in Cambodia. It is a fact that the previous Australian Government recognised the present Government of Cambodia, I think on 17 April 1975. It has been the view of this Government that it would not be in the interest of the peaceful development of Cambodia and of the South East Asian region to withdraw that recognition.

I have already indicated in the House that Australia is not represented in Phnom Penh and that formal diplomatic relations have not been established with Cambodia. I have, of course, previously given to the House details regarding this matter and there is probably little to add to the comments I made about it back in April. I pointed out then, as I have today, that Australia had no direct diplomatic representation in the country but that we had received various reports, some of them apparently well sourced. I have said that if the reports were true- in certain instances we believe them to be true- no government, no matter what its political complexion, could condone them. I repeat that we deplore atrocities and breaches of human rights wherever they occur but particularly in regard to the charges which are made about Cambodia. While recognising that there has, in fact, been some decline in reports of atrocities in recent months, nevertheless I shall see whether I can check the matters about exit and entry from Thailand to which the honourable member referred and provide authoritative opinion to honourable members. I repeat that if the reports are true no government could condone the actions.

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