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39/ Vickery rebukes Morris, 1985



written in October 1985

The Editor, The Age, Melbourne

Stephen Morris' call for more American-backed destruction in Cambodia (The Age, 2 October 1985, p. 11) is riddled with mis- and disinformation.

The Vietnamese invasion from December 1978 through January 1979 replaced one of modern history's cruellest regimes with a government under which material welfare, personal freedom, and the quality of life have greatly improved. The Vietnamese intervention was supported and accompanied by Cambodian communists who had rejected the Pol Pot line at various times between 1972 and 1978, and was welcomed by the Cambodian populace to such a degree that the Vietnamese moved forward faster than expected and outran their logistics.

Among the present group of 18 People's Republic of Kampuchea government ministers only 3 served as part of the Pol Pot administration between 1975 and 1978. Eleven more had participated in the war against the U.S. backed Lon Nol regime, but split with Pol Pot before 1975 and never worked for his 'Democratic Kampuchea.' Four others were non-communists evacuated to the countryside as peasants under Pol Pot. The same sort of mixture is found throughout the top levels of the regime, with former Pol Pot officials nowhere in a majority; and below the topmost slots the administration is 'riddled' with former employees of the Sihanouk and Lon Nol governments, or with younger people who were students at that time.

If many Vietnamese experts and advisers arrived in Cambodia in 1979, it was because so many of Cambodia's educated personnel had perished during 1975-1979, as Stephen Morris once upon a time liked to trumpet. The numbers of these Vietnamese diminish yearly, as they are replaced by newly trained Cambodians, and there is no evidence that Cambodians are "forced to defer" to them for all major decisions.

The "mass migration" of Vietnamese settlers is strictly black propaganda. The largest number any serious observer is willing to offer is around 200,000, less than half the total of the native pre-war Vietnamese minority, who were murdered or expelled under Pol Pot.

There is thus no evidence for "colonialism", and it is difficult to call "totalitarian" a state which did not even try to collect taxes until 1983, which has permitted a very large degree of freedom of movement and choice of occupation, which, at least as late as November 1984, did not even have a national identity card system, and where there is no more indication of fear of the "secret police" among the ordinary population than during the last years of the Sihanouk regime in the 1960s.

As for human rights, Morris' remark about "profound" deprivation "over the past decade" is particularly disingenuous. That occurred during 1975-1979, under the regime whose remnants are now the largest segment of the coalition for which Morris desires U.S. support. Since 1979 there has been enormous improvement in human rights; and Cambodia bears comparison in this area with any other country in Southeast Asia. Last December the New-York based Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights published a "Preliminary Report" on Cambodia which revealed as many violations of legality in the small Thai border areas occupied by the Pol Pot remnants as in the entire country of Cambodia. The report refused to deal with Morris' favored Son Sann faction, whose violations of human rights are ever more frequently reported in the Bangkok press.


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