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Thursday, 4 May 1989
Page: 1798


Senator SCHACHT —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. What is the Australian Government's view of the outcome of talks between the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), Hun Sen and the Cambodian resistance leader, Prince Sihanouk, in Jakarta over the past two days? What implications will the outcome have for possible Australian involvement in a resolution of the Cambodian issue?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have been encouraged-if I can speak for the Government-by reports that Prince Sihanouk and the PRK Prime Minister, Hun Sen, made progress in talks in Jakarta on 2 May. The areas of agreement include: changes to the name, the flag and the anthem of Cambodia and acceptance of Buddhism as the state religion; a cessation of external military assistance to each of the factions upon the final withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia; changes to the Constitution but with acceptance by both parties of the need to consult further on specific differences of views-that is to say, among other things, over the multi-party system advocated by Prince Sihanouk-the broad composition and role of an international control mechanism but with many contentious details left for further discussion; agreement also on another Hun Sen-Sihanouk meeting to be held on 24 July followed by a round table meeting of all four factions in Paris the following day; agreement on the convening of an international conference with sessions to be held in Jakarta and Paris but with details still to be discussed; and a ceasefire to be put in place instead of Prince Sihanouk's former insistence on an interim quadripartite army.

However, notwithstanding all those extremely important areas of agreement, Prince Sihanouk and Hun Sen have failed so far to reach broad agreement on a number of what still remain major stumbling blocks, notably, the extent to which the PRK Government should be altered to accommodate the three other Cambodian factions in the interim period before elections, with Hun Sen resisting diminution of the status and the effective exercise of power by his Government. Again, with regard to the Khmer Rouge, Prince Sihanouk is continuing to insist on its inclusion in any interim arrangements which he continues to contend should be quadripartite in nature, while Hun Sen has rejected the idea of the Khmer Rouge taking part in an interim quadripartite coalition, Sihanouk arguing, as he has, that the only way to avoid a prolonged civil war is to include the Khmer Rouge forces in a national army. But that said, while Sihanouk is remaining apparently firm on a quadripartite government, he is also acknowledging that a tripartite government might well be viable if the Khmer Rouge refused to join. He also seems to be implicitly accepting that the interim administration of Cambodia would continue with the PRK authorities on the ground.

While it is the case overall that both of them have shown a welcome degree of flexibility, it is clear that key issues remain to be resolved, particularly regarding power-sharing arrangements among the four Khmer factions and not least, obviously, the role of the Khmer Rouge who were not represented in these talks.

As to Australia's specific reaction, we share the concern of others about the possibility of a civil war developing in Cambodia following Vietnam's troop withdrawal if the Khmer Rouge attempts to return to power. As we have said on innumerable occasions, we are categorically opposed to a return to power by Pol Pot and his senior associates.

A few weeks ago, on 6 March, in answer to a question by Senator Foreman, I indicated Australia's willingness to participate in our International Conference if it were invited to do so. Prince Sihanouk has previously indicated support for Australian participation in an international conference on Cambodia. He confirmed this to me personally when we met in Beijing in January and he did so again yesterday in conversation with our Ambassador in Jakarta, Philip Flood. As both the Prime Minister and I have said on a number of occasions, the Government is willing to consider any request that might be made for us to participate in an appropriate international control mechanism.

My colleague Kim Beazley, the Minister for Defence, is considering the possible logistic implications if Australia were invited to participate in such a mechanism. Obviously, the size of any possible Australian contingent would depend upon the nature of the peacekeeping or monitoring task envisaged. The Minister for Defence and I agree that the most desirable outcome would unquestionably be one whereby the commitment by the various parties to an internal settlement was such that only a very small external monitoring force was required.