§ 10.8 am
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Chapman.]
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have had any notification from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about whether he is to make a statement this morning as a matter of urgency on the spectacular collapse of the Polly Peck empire headed by Asil Nadir, who was the 1985 Thatcherite businessman of the year. A lot of small investors are involved, and a lot of important, well-run and well-organised companies have been subjected to an imprudent entrepreneur, as happened in several other collapses following exactly the same pattern. It is important that we get a statement as soon as possible.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Mr. Speaker has had no application for such a statement.
§ 10.9 am
§ Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
This is an unexpected bonus, Madam Deputy Speaker. I came here expecting the statutory 12 or 15 minutes, but hon. Members now find themselves with an opportunity to explore aspects of the Government's policy on Cambodia that we had not imagined we would have time to consider.
Cambodia is a faraway country of which most people in the Foreign Office know very little. That is surprising in a way, because the Foreign Office probably receives more correspondence on this subject than on any other issue; it is a matter of enormous interest to citizens of this country who have been moved by a succession of excellent television films made by John Pilger and David Munro and who have learnt in the past decade or so that our policy in that area of the world is not all that we have been led to believe.
Among those who know least about Cambodia—I mean this as no disrespect to the Under-Secretary of State—are Foreign Office Ministers who, from time to time, are called upon to speak on the subject at the Dispatch Box. That is no reflection on the Under-Secretary. Everyone knows that he is a newcomer to the Foreign Office. In any case, responsibility for Her Majesty's Government's policy towards Cambodia has been kept well away from the House of Commons over the years and has been allocated to a series of Bertie Wooster figures in the House of Lords, one of whom, Lord Brabazon, spectacularly self-destructed in front of John Pilger's television cameras a year ago. Not a lot has been heard from him since. I do not think that he will be allowed out on his own again.
In one's search of the Foreign Office for someone with a detailed knowledge of Her Majesty's Government's policy on Cambodia, one comes fairly quickly to a senior civil servant, Mr. David Colvin, head of the south east Asian department. I referred to Mr. Colvin when the subject was last debated in the House in November 1989. One or two Ministers, particularly the Minister for Overseas Development, felt that that was unsporting of me because, as she said, Mr. Colvin, like most civil servants, has no opportunity to reply. I bear that in mind in anything I say, but Mr. Colvin has a great deal more opportunities to reply on this issue than I have. There is no question but that the speeches that are read out by 641 Ministers—there have been at least three of them in the past year, and Ministers have passed responsibility from one to another rather like a hot brick and cannot wait to let go of it—are drafted or authorised and certainly studied by Mr. Colvin. Also, I imagine that the recent article in The Independent in the name of the Foreign Secretary was also drafted or, the very least, double-checked by Mr. Colvin. That article, I recollect, poured scorn on some of us who had been attempting to criticise Government policy on the issue, and suggested that some of us—it did not single me out, but had it done so it would have been false—were originally supporters of the Khmer Rouge.
Mr. Colvin has plenty of chance to reply, albeit through whichever Minister happens to come to the Dispatch Box, so I do not feel all that shy about mentioning his long-term association with this issue. He it was, no doubt, who approved the speech by the right hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave)—the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who briefly had responsibility for this matter last November—which purported to give a history of events in Cambodia and Vietnam and dealt with the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam in Christmas 1978, but omitted to make any reference to the fact that the Vietnamese invasion, whether it was right or wrong—I make no comment on it—was in response to the massive and prolonged attacks over two years on the western provinces of Vietnam which had resulted in large civilian casualties.
That omission was not the fault of the Minister. I did not blame him at the time. I thought that it was more likely to be the responsibility of Mr. Colvin, because, as the Minister said only a few days before, he knew nothing about Cambodia; yet there he was at the Dispatch Box reading out a brief that came from somewhere in the Foreign Office. Let me be fair to Mr. Colvin. I do not suggest for one minute that he makes policy on Cambodia, but he is the only person who has any detailed knowledge of it. I do not suggest that policy on the subject is made ultimately in his department. Perhaps it would be better if we had a Minister from the Ministry of Defence or, better still, someone representing the interests of the Cabinet Office or Downing street because policy on the issue had been made at a slightly higher level.
Perhaps we should have someone from the American State Department here, because it is noticeable that a great deal of our foreign policy is made in the American State Department. That is a matter of record. The policy may originate in one of the murkier areas of the American Government system. I do not think that it originates here, because we are a satellite state. When the telex comes from Washington telling us that there has been a change in policy, as there was a few months ago when Mr. Baker started to talk to the Vietnamese for the first time, a Foreign Office Minister instantly tells us that our policy has changed by precisely the same percentage as the American policy has changed. I suspect that the real villains lie on the other side of t he Atlantic. That is merely one of the more humiliating examples of our satellite status in relation to the United States.
I recollect—it was a source of deep shame-when, a few months ago, a member of the unrecognised Cambodian Administration in Phnom Penh, Mr. Cham Prasidh, came to this country. He was the first member of that Administration, which is in a desperate situation struggling against great odds and its plight has aroused sympathy all around the world, even to be permitted a visa 642 to set foot in this country, but he could not establish contact with any member of the Government to discuss the situation in his country. I thought that that was a matter of deep shame. Mr. Cham Prasidh lost his parents and 86 relatives the last time the holocaust passed across his country. That man was deeply depressed. He knew that the holocaust was coming back and that the likelihood was that it would consume more of his family, if not himself. I felt that there were people who were unfit to tie his shoelaces, never mind receive him at the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Cryer
What my hon. Friend is saying is really quite appalling. Will my hon. Friend venture any reason why that poor country, which threatens nobody, should be treated with such contempt by the Government? The Cambodians do not seem to be in a position to exert influence on any other country. They pose no military threat to any other country. It is a wretchedly poor country. Will my hon. Friend speculate on whether the Government's attitude might simply be a continuing vendetta by the United States because they happened to be unfortunate enough to be associated with the wrong country when they were rid of the menace of Pol Pot by Vietnam?
§ Mr. Mullin
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He puts his finger on the point. I do not think that this extraordinary tragedy, which has now been stretched out for many years, has happened because anybody has any particular animus against the Cambodian people. Their great tragedy is that their liberators, which is what they were—whether or not they were right to go in—came from the wrong side of the cold war. Cambodia is trapped in a situation in which those who are seeking to undermine its regime are not interested in the destruction of Cambodia, although that happens to be a by-product, and are more interested in undermining its neighbour, Vietnam. That is the genesis of this terrible matter.
Cambodia has an extraordinarily tragic history. I visited that country on a number of occasions, the first time being in 1973 when United States B52s were burning down the countryside and, indeed, some of the towns up to within a few kilometres of the centre of the capital. I used to lie awake at night listening as the whole city shook to the sound of the B52s as they plastered the area. If one went to Sattahip in Thailand—Utapao was the name of the American base in Thailand—one could watch the B52s taking off, with 30 tonnes of explosives and napalm each time, on their way to annihilate and destroy Cambodia. I saw that. I went to Cambodia again in 1980 shortly after Pol Pot and his cronies left town. No one who went there at that time could fail to be moved by the horrors awaiting them.
For many years Cambodia was ruled by Prince Sihanouk, first as an absolute monarch and later, by some deft footwork, as a constitutional Head of Government. He managed, precariously, to preserve an imperfect neutrality for his country and to keep it out of the holocaust that was taking place next door in Vietnam and further north in Laos. He managed to do so until 1970, by turning a blind eye to the activities of both the United States and the Vietnamese communists, both of whom were operating in the eastern provinces of his country. That precarious neutrality proved not to be sufficient for 643 those who were running the war next door and a military coup was connived at which removed Prince Sihanouk in March 1970.
When the Minister replies, he will no doubt tell us that one of our objectives nowadays is to get Prince Sihanouk back into government again. One has to pinch oneself to recall that one of our objectives 20 years ago was to remove Prince Sihanouk, which is exactly what happened. There was not a word of protest from the British or American Governments about the military coup that removed Prince Sihanouk, because it is widely believed—there is some evidence—that the Americans were behind it. During the four or five years of the crazy Lon No1 regime, the country was opened up to carpet bombing on the most enormous scale. It was probably the greatest bombardment in the history of warfare. As I have said, it annihilated most of the countryside, outside a few main cities.
Out of that holocaust grew a revolutionary movement more terrible than any ever seen—the Khmer Rouge. The only reason that that group of revolutionaries—a tiny group in 1970—was able to take over the entire country by 1975 was the backlash that, not surprisingly, drove thousands of ordinary Cambodians into their arms as a result of the holocaust that had been unleashed upon them.
The Khmer Rouge's activities during the four years in which it had total control of the country is a matter of record and I do not propose to dwell on it. It is not controversial. What is controversial is what happened next. At Christmas 1978, after a long series of massive attacks on the western provinces of Vietnam—there were similar attacks by the Khmer Rouge, with similar atrocities, although not on the same scale, on the eastern provinces of Thailand and so everybody knows what they were like—the Vietnamese finally lost patience, invaded and removed Pol Pot regime. That invasion took place in, I believe, exactly the same week that the Tanzanians, with western backing, invaded Uganda and evicted the regime of Idi Amin and were generally celebrated for having done so
§ Mr. Cryer
Will my hon. Friend use the word "liberate" more frequently because we know how concerned the Government are to create images? The fact is that Vietnam saved many Cambodian lives and was the only country prepared to take action to release Cambodia from a holocaust, the nature and extent of which had not been witnessed since the 1939–45 war and the gas chambers of the Nazis in Germany. It is worth repeating time and again that in the view of many people Vietnam liberated Cambodia. The Foreign Office probably likes to differ from that view, and we must ensure that quotations from Hansard cannot be used to suggest that my hon. Friend is underlining the American attitude that there was an invasion.
§ Mr. Mullin
Once again, I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am not suggesting that the Vietnamese motives were the purest because there was a considerable amount of self-interest, which they own up to. Their western province had been attacked, with the slaughter of perhaps 20,000 people, mainly civilians, as has been attested to by the western correspondents who were there at the time. If 644 a country to the south of us invaded the southern part of England and slaughtered people on a similar scale, I doubt whether anybody would hold it too much against us if we took some extremely serious action, up to and including invasion. That is primarily what provoked Vietnam to go in and, as a by-product, it liberated many Cambodian people who might have expected death shortly. Many people had already died——
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
It should be made clear at this stage that the view of the British Foreign Office about the Vietnamese invasion was not peculiar to the Foreign Office but was also the view of the United Nations and of the vast majority of the countries of the United Nations, and was repeated year after year. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's view of the motive. The invasion was provoked by attacks on Vietnam. I agree that there was a benefit in that the Vietnamese deposed Pol Pot and got rid of the Khmer Rouge. However, it was not a particular view of the Foreign Office, which then condemned the continuing invasion and the threat of invasion into other countries.
§ Mr. Mullin
Like myself, the hon. Gentleman has taken a long and persistent interest in Cambodia and is quite right. As I said, I was in Cambodia shortly after the Vietnamese invasion. Although, historically, there was no love lost between the Kampuchean people and the Vietnamese, the word "liberate" was frequently used because many of the people to whom I spoke believed that they would not have survived another year or two of the regime.
Apart from consuming many of the country's citizens, the regime was consuming its own. Those of us who had the opportunity to visit the death camp in Tuol Sleng—perhaps Mr. Colvin did not—noticed that its most compelling feature was that the killers took photographs of the people they killed, including many women and children, shortly before killing them. Most of the victims were Khmer Rouge. The organisation was eating itself. Like all Stalinist organisations, there was a succession of purges. Most of the civilians who died, died from hunger and overwork in the paddy fields or were murdered.
Many Cambodian people, of all persuasions, and whatever their attitude towards the Vietnamese, were grateful for the arrival of the Vietnamese, sudden though it was. According to those who have travelled the country—I know that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) have been there recently—the people are terrified at the prospect of what awaits them now that the Vietnamese have withdrawn.
Although not a state of affairs that one would wish to prolong unnecessarily, the Vietnamese invasion should have been at least as celebrated as the Tanzanian invasion and removal of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda, but precisely the opposite happened. For very different motives, China and the United States decided that it was in their best interests not to arrange for the removal of Pol pot from the scene, but to arrange his preservation, and in the succeeding decade, they took steps to ensure that Pol Pot did survive.
Those of us who are satellite states of the United States are implicated deeply in that policy. As we shall see in a moment, we are implicated a lot more deeply than many British citizens and hon. Members understand. It cannot 645 be stated too clearly that specific steps were taken to arrange for the survival and reorganisation of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. I remember that the objective was stated frankly by an American Under-Secretary of State at the time as being to bleed Vietnam. It was not to get Vietnam out of Cambodia; it was not to get the Khmer Rouge back into power in Cambodia—I accept that nobody wanted that—it was simply to keep the Vietnamese in Cambodia, to tie them down and to drain their already seriously depleted resources. That was the object of the wicked policy that has been carried out during the last decade.
Thailand was leaned on—the relationship between the Thai military and the United States is extremely close—to provide facilities for the Khmer Rouge. Some deal, the details of which were not made public, was arrived at with China that it would supply the guns, at least at first. The guns would come into the port of Sattahip or Utapao, the former American base, from which they would be transported by Thai army vehicles. The Thai military would pause only long enough to take their rake off before distributing the guns to the Khmer Rouge.
It was also agreed that food would be supplied—this is a bit rich—under the cover of the United Nations Border Relief Operation. The regime of Pol Pot remained the recognised Government at the United Nations. For a while the Khmer Rouge flag flew at the United Nations. Enormous efforts were made by China and the United States and their satellites initially to make sure that recognition of the Pol Pot regime was sustained at the United Nations. When it became unsustainable a fraudulent coalition was constructed, to which Prince Sihanouk—who is a tool of the Khmer Rouge; he was not originally but he is now—was added, along with a clapped-out politician called Son Sann. It was called a coalition and for the past seven or eight years that coalition has theoretically represented Cambodia at the United Nations. It did not control a single centimetre of Cambodian soil for most of that time, although it now controls a considerable amount.
The representative of Cambodia was not even someone from the more acceptable and palatable half of that fraudulent coalition. It was Mr. Thiounn Prasith—the House will forgive me if I do not pronounce his name correctly. Four members of his family, indeed I believe that they were his brothers, were members of the regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1978 while the Khmer Rouge held sway. Mr. Thiounn Prasith is a member of the Khmer Rouge. All the facilities of the United Nations have been at the disposal of the Khmer Rouge under the guise of that fraudulent coalition.
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
Does my hon. Friend agree that particularly on that issue we can nail one of the lies which the Government have consistently peddled? They maintain that they have never given support of any kind to the Khmer Rouge, yet, as my hon. Friend said, the Khmer Rouge among others held the seat at the United Nations until recently, and on three occasions—in 1979, 1980 and 1981—the United Kingdom Government voted to seat the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations. On those three occasions at least, the Government gave diplomatic support to the Khmer Rouge.
§ Mr. Mullin
In any case, anyone who saw the film made by John Pilger and David Munro in November last year 646 will have seen the United Nations debate on the subject and seen delegates congratulating Mr. Thiounn Prasith on his success in becoming yet again, somehow or other, the representative of that fraudulent coalition at the United Nations.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
I concede the hon. Gentleman's great knowledge of the area but is not he being rather naive in making the assertions that he makes? Is not it clear that the only way in which the extremely powerful Khmer Rouge could have been stopped from overrunning Cambodia, taking control and resuming its killing fields operations, was to keep it within a quadripartite agreement within which there was at least the hope that the Khmer Rouge could be controlled? Does not that explain the attitude, not of the British Government but of the United Nations as a whole, and the decision to take a course which, it is true, from time to time could give the impression of lending support to the Khmer Rouge, as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) just suggested? It was the lesser of two evils. The alternative was too horrible to contemplate.
§ Mr. Mullin
The hon. and learned Gentleman is a distinguished lawyer. He used to say that I was naive when I said that the people convicted of the Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings were innocent. I imagine that he now shares my view on that. He used to say that I was naive—indeed, he said so in the House once or twice—when I said that the people convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings were innocent. I predict that he will be in this place long enough to see them released and their convictions quashed.
While the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking I noticed his hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe shaking his head. I hope that he will forgive me for calling him in aid. There is no foundation whatever for the assertions that the hon. and learned Gentleman makes.
§ Mr. Cryer
Does my hon. Friend agree that the curious argument that the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) just advanced could be compared to someone suggesting after the 1939–45 war that we should incorporate Hitler in a coalition to prevent him from developing his position in Germany again? That would be an exact parallel and we should have rejected it with contempt in 1945. We should reject with contempt the same suggestion with regard to Cambodia.
§ Mr. Mullin
My hon. Friend puts the point far better than I. I do not suggest that the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) is malign; if anything, he is naive in the interpretation that he puts on recent events. We did not simply incorporate the Khmer Rouge into our arrangements in order to keep it under control. We resuscitated it; we reorganised it; we helped it set up military training camps; we supplied it with food; we arranged for the supply of guns. I see the hon. and learned Gentleman shake his head, but it is true. He does not know the slightest thing about the matter or, at least, he knows only as much as he knew about the Guildford and Woolwich case.
Pol Pot was provided with facilities in Thailand. He still has them. They are there for anyone to see. People have been to see them. Thailand is a member of the western alliance. It is a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, but it has a close relationship with the 647 United States and a friendly relationship with Britain. There is a training camp in Thailand for officers of the Khmer Rouge—not officers of the coalition. The main leaders of the Khmer Rouge, including Pol Pot, regularly give lectures there. The camp is a few miles from the border, about 20 miles from the town of Trat in the province of Trat. In addition, an island in the Gulf of Thailand near the border between Trat and Cambodia has been set aside for the exclusive use of the Khmer Rouge leadership. Defectors from the Khmer Rouge have been interviewed in The Daily Telegraph, of all papers, on the facilities that are available to the Khmer Rouge leadership there.
The Khmer Rouge come and go through the main airport in Bangkok through the military section of Don Muang airport. When Pol Pot had heart trouble—yes, Pol Pot has a heart—a few years ago he was given hospital treatment twice in a hospital in the centre of Bangkok. A suite in the Erawan hotel in the centre of Bangkok was put at his disposal. We all know that that is what has gone on.
§ Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)
The hon. Gentleman is right to refer to the role of Thailand. He is wrong to imply that that is somehow part of British policy. Will he explore a little—I know that he wants to be fair about the background to this case—the history not only of east-west relations but of Sino-Soviet and Sino-Vietnamese relations? Will he also explore the fear and perhaps hatred between the Thais and the Vietnamese which also plays a part in the background to the horrendous situation? Perhaps he should address that as much as his concern about western alliances.
§ Mr. Mullin
I respect the intelligent interest that the hon. Gentleman has taken in the issue over a long period. However, one can exaggerate the hostility between Thailand and Vietnam. One of the main problems in Thailand is that the military is more or less independent of the Government. I am friendly with people who are extremely senior in the Thai Government so I have access to their thoughts on the subject. Merely to be Prime Minister of Thailand is not sufficient to persuade the military to desist from the arrangements that they have arrived at with the Khmer Rouge. The military deals directly with the United States military and, to some extent, the Chinese military. That is a funny old turn up for the books. When I used to go to Thailand in the early 1970s the newspapers were full of phoney stories about the imminent Chinese invasion. That shows that 15 or 17 years is a long time in politics.
No, that generous interpretation from the hon. and learned Member for Burton cannot explain what has happened, because everyone involved in the western alliance and everyone who has taken a close interest in these matters—Mr. Colvin has a detailed knowledge of them—knows that the facilities that I have described have been made available to the Khmer Rouge for a long time. They have also been made available to the coalition, which has facilities in Thailand, including soldiers who are said to be supporters of Prince Sihanouk and a few who are said to be supporters of Mr. Son Sann. However, everyone who knows anything about the situation knows that the real 648 fighting, the real dying and the real killing are done mostly by the Khmer Rouge, which is experienced in and good at it.
Building up the non-Khmer Rouge wing of the coalition, an effort which has been more or less unsuccessful, has been an objective of American and British policy. It has led to what we now have—the Khmer Rouge in an extremely strong position.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
Has my hon. Friend seen this week's Jane's Defence Weekly, which has three worrying articles in it? One, headed "New Khmer Rouge offensive planned", talks about a meeting between Khmer Rouge army commanders on the Thai-Cambodia border—that reinforces my hon. Friend's point that they can come and go as they please across that border—which was attended by Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders, and brought together 25 division and five special regiment commanders. It says:The recent meeting represents the largest Khmer Rouge military gathering in more than five years.It is clear that they are reinforcing for a new offensive within Cambodia as soon as the rainy season ends, and that this offensive will be strong.
Furthermore, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, there is concern that, for the first time in 12 years of guerrilla warfare, there will be a major push towards one of the Cambodian cities. Is not this news deeply worrying to those of us who know that, despite the efforts of the United Nations, neither the ceasefire nor the cessation of arms supplies has taken place?
§ Mr. Mullin
Jane's Defence Weekly has not always been my required reading, but I dip into it now and again as I am always interested in what I find there. I shall be referring to another article in it later.
If the situation is as the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) suggested, I ask him this question. Why have the British and American Governments, who are close friends of Thailand, never protested about the facilities afforded to Pol Pot? The answer is that we are in it up to to our necks. We are not just neutral observers. We make a contribution. The Minister will tell us at some length how much the Government abhor and hate the Khmer Rouge and how wicked and terrible it is. In that case, he has to address the question of what steps Her Majesty's Government have taken over the past decade to persuade the Thais not to support those facilities for the Khmer Rouge.
The Thais are embarrassed about this, and the Thai Government—I cannot speak for the Thai military—are anxious to get rid of the Khmer Rouge. One of the reasons why they cannot do so is that the United States, China and other western counties, no doubt including ourselves, are putting pressure on them not to evict the Khmer Rouge. I can quote an article that appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review on 2 March 1989 about what is happening in Thailand. This all depends on Thailand because were it to kick out the Khmer Rouge, it would not matter what anyone else did. The United States is getting worried that the Thais' resolve is slipping. Its officialsprivately warned that if Thailand abandoned the Cambodian resistance and its leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk"—that is a laugh, for a start—for the sake of doing business with Phnom Penh, it would have to pay a price. Thailand should consider whether the total value of any new Indochinese trade would even cover the 649 United States trade access privileges it still gets under the Generalised Special Preferences, one administration official said.That is where we are at. Thailand is trying to pull out and break the circle, but, like us and probably more so, it is a satellite of the United States. Furthermore, the Thai military is largely independent of its Government. Thailand is being leaned on to keep coming up with the goods in respect of the Khmer Rouge.
The Minister will tell us that a settlement is in prospect, that we can all relax, that, terrible though the situation has been, we should not get too bogged down in the murky history, that we should look forward, that the United Nations is in the process of imposing a settlement that will bring together all factions of Cambodia, that it is up to the Cambodians to get themselves together and sort themselves out, and that everything will he all right on the night. The hon. Member for Broxtowe, whose views I greatly respect on this issue, and I take a slightly different view of the wisdom of this settlement.
It is said that the Hun Sen Government in Phnom Penh have agreed to the terms of this settlement, but if they have, it is because they are desperate. The situation there is so bad because the Government were badly undermined. They were attempting, with some success, to restore some semblance of normality to life, with the help of aid agencies, although not many western Governments, and aid from the eastern bloc. They have suddenly found, as a result of the great changes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, that their eastern bloc aid is about to be cut off. When that happens, they will have no source of development income from outside.
I see Mr. Colvin saying "Rubbish", but when that happens, the situation will be even more desperate. The only source of arms for the Phnom Penh Government was the eastern bloc, and now they are having to buy on the international market with what small gold reserves they have. Tragically, they are getting some of their weapons from the same source as the Khmer Rouge. If the Hun Sen regime has been forced into this proposed UN settlement, which everybody who knows much about the area thinks is unworkable, it is because they have no other choice and the alternative facing them is annihilation.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
Have not the Opposition repeatedly called for bilateral aid to be given to the Cambodian Government, while the Government have repeatedly refused to give it, although that means that the Cambodians are desperately handicapped? Their Government have never been given the international assistance that they should have been given to help the country to recover from the disastrous American bombing and the Pol Pot years. One of the poorest countries is denied bilateral aid from the United Kingdom while the aid that it gets through non-governmental organisations is hopelessly meagre and cannot deal with the problems. United Nations development aid is also denied to Cambodia. Although there is $40 million in the account for Cambodia, it is frozen, as is another $40 million for the next two years. Is not this a scandal, given the desperate needs of the Cambodian people?
§ Mr. Mullin
My hon. Friend has visited Cambodia more recently than I and she knows how desperate the situation is. In the past decade Cambodia has attempted to get off its knees and to improve the circumstances that have been forced upon it by outside powers too great for 650 that country to overcome. Every time that country appears to be in the process of doing so, it receives a new kick from the national boycott that has been systematically organised in the past decade. Its neighbour Vietnam is also subject to that boycott.
§ Mr. Cryer
I recently asked the Minister for Overseas Development about aid to Cambodia. In a written parliamentary answer she informed me that the British Government, with all their humanitarian concern welling up in their stony heart, will give in 1991 a massive £7,000 to assist in the provision of rural water supplies in Cambodia. That is about the annual cost of a drinks cabinet for each Minister. It is appalling that the Government should be so contemptuous of that poverty-stricken country.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) must respond before another intervention.
§ Mr. Mullin
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is one of the more reliable Members of the House, and if the figure he has quoted is correct, it is scandalous. The most useful thing that the Government could do is to stop assisting the terrorists to undermine the regime. If they did that alone and left it to other sources to provide the aid that would make a tremendous difference.
§ Mr. Lester
The truth is that in the past year we have given more than £1 million directly to United Nations agencies in Cambodia. We have financed £500,000 worth of expenditure on joint funding with organisations working in Cambodia, for example Oxfam—the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I have seen the fruits of that expenditure. It is nonsense to try to make a shallow, miserable political point about Ministers' drinks cabinets when we operate an open joint-funding scheme. As other schemes come forward, we shall fund them. I have more to say on funding later.
§ Mr. Mullin
I do not want to get too bogged down in this issue now, as I am sure we shall return to it later. Suffice it to say that I am sure the hon. Member for Broxtowe would agree that the Government do not give development aid.
§ Mr. Cryer
I do not wish to exaggerate the argument, but I am merely basing my information on the information given to me by the Minister for Overseas development. If hon. Members turn to Hansard for Monday 22 October they will find at column 23 in the written answers, the figures given by the Minister relating to aid to Cambodia—figures given in a specific response to my question. In 1991 the committed money for a rural water supply is £7,570.
§ Mr. Mullin
I am grateful for that clarification. On a number of occasions Ministers have reiterated that we do not give development aid to Cambodia. Such aid as we give is directed through non-governmental agencies. That aid has not been given out of the kindness of the Foreign Office heart, but as a result of the enormous public pressure generated by the excellent films made by Mr. Pilger and Mr. Munro, as well as the writings of other people. The aid is also the result of pressure exerted on 651 Ministers by Opposition Members and the hon. Members for Battersea, for Broxtowe and others who take an intelligent interest in this issue.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
I understand that the Foreign Office received 3,500 letters following the initial John Pilger film. I have received a mass of letters which represent the greatest spontaneous response that I have ever received from individual constituents as distinct from organised pressure groups. This subject arouses great concern and I congratulate my hon. Friend on his fortuitous circumstances that will enable us to have a full debate on it.
§ Mr. Mullin
I stand open to correction, but I believe that the response has been even greater than that. As a result of the past two Pilger films shown at the end of 1989, the Foreign Office has received 16,000 letters and the Prime Minister has received the 3,500 to which my hon. Friend referred. There is no doubt that, despite our difficulty in persuading Foreign Office Ministers to take the situation seriously, the public already do so. It is that concern which encourages me to raise this issue in such strong terms.
§ Mrs. Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The letters are still coming in. I received one this morning from the Rev. Victor Oxford, the parish priest of Chesterton in my constituency. He wrote to express the deep concern of his parishioners at what is happening in Cambodia and stated:I do not believe that Britain's involvement has been an honourable one.
§ Mr. Cryer
Perhaps my hon. Friend should dwell on our proceedings yesterday. My hon. Friend will recall that we debated the Broadcasting Bill and the imposition on broadcasters of a legal framework for impartiality. Many Tory Members claimed that no television producers should be allowed to hold views that intrude on their programmes. The Government's decision last night could lead to court decisions requiring, in the interest of balance, any programme on Cambodia to include representatives of Pol Pot. In that way the legal restrictions imposed by the Government would not be breached.
§ Mr. Mullin
I imagine that the films that aroused the great public concern to which we have referred were uppermost in the minds of those who devised the new arrangements. Civil servants and Ministers who are engaged in activities that cannot be easily justified in public need and require silence—they do not want those activities talked about. I note that the Minister is looking upset, but I absolve him as he has been in office for only a short time.
The main Government spokesman for policy in south-east Asia sits in the other place—that subject has always been the responsibility of Bertie Wooster figures whom it is difficult to take seriously. That practice, however, keeps any detailed questioning on the subject away from the House—that is the effect; who can say if it is the intention?
652 The only reason why this subject has been discussed at any length is the persistence of a handful of hon. Members, most of whom are in the Chamber today. Last year's debate on the subject in the House had a meagre impact on Government policy, but the only reason for that debate was our decision, in response to great public interest, to allocate one of the Opposition half-days to it. It is only by good fortune that we are able to have this extended debate today rather than an Adjournment debate that might have taken place, unwitnessed, in the early hours of some morning. Good fortune does not often smile on lowly Back Benchers such as myself.
§ Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
It is true that the John Pilger films have led to a flood of letters from our constituents, but for many years I have consistently received letters and representations of a most thoughtful nature from people who cannot understand the Government's attitude. They cannot understand why the survival of the Cambodian people should be put at risk. Although I welcome the recent flood of letters, it is important to remember that they do not represent an isolated incident. For many years there has been considerable public reaction to the Government's policy.
§ Mr. Mullin
My hon. Friend is right. We continually refer to the Government's policy, and while we are discussing that as a subject, it is not really British Government policy. Somebody in a dark area in Washington has created the policy and we, as in many other areas, are lamely following, and as in many other areas, that is bringing humiliation on all who are having to defend the situation.
I shall deal with the settlement to which I referred before dealing with two areas of Government policy of which I gave the Minister's office notice. The agreement that is now being imposed on Cambodia is unworkable, and I do not think that those who are imposing it believe that it will work. When it breaks down, they will blame it on the faction-fighting among Cambodians and say, "It is extremely difficult to get the fractious Cambodians to co-operate with one another."
If I were a Cambodian, I would be nervous about co-operating with the Khmer Rouge and some other groups with whom they are being forced to co-operate. One effect of the agreement will be to give the Khmer Rouge a place in the Government. It will also give the Khmer Rouge territory that it has not yet captured on the battlefield. Others have used the analogy that it is as if, towards the end of the last war, instead of opting for unconditional surrender, we had suggested a coalition under which even if Hitler were allowed to retire to a military training school in Bavaria, it would at least have included Himmler, Goering and a few others.
There is fear in Cambodia lest, under the cover of the agreement, the Khmer Rouge will come back, and I share that view. One effect of the agreement will be to disarm—it forces disarmament on all factions—the only faction that is conducting any serious resistance, which is the regime in Phnom Penh. If I were in the Phnom Penh regime and I were being required by the agreement to lay down my guns, I should be extremely hesitant to do so.
As I say, the agreement will not work and I do not believe that those who are trying to impose it believe that it will work. Unfortunately, it will provide an alibi for those who designed it, who will be responsible for what 653 may happen in the next few years and who will say at that time, "It is not our fault. We did our best to impose the agreement, but the fractious Cambodians would not sit down and sort it out among themselves. What else could we do?"
For a long time I took the view that neutrality was probably the best that western Governments could offer, and some of us argued for that, at any rate over the United Nations seat. We said that at least the United Nations seat should be left vacant until arrangements were made for an elected Government in Cambodia to become internationally recognised.
For a long time the British Government, along with the Americans and the Chinese, took the view that a Vietnamese withdrawal was required. I recall when travelling in that neck of the woods being told by representatives of Her Majesty's Government, "The priority of our policy is to get the Vietnamese out of Cambodia." When asked, "What will happen after that?" the answer was invariably, "We have not yet got round to thinking about that." Occasionally the representatives were more frank and would reply, "It worries us, too." Unfortunately, being servants of the Foreign Office, Mr. Colvin and the rest in Whitehall, they had to pursue remorselessly the line of removing the Vietnamese troops from Cambodia, without giving much thought to what would follow.
Though it may have surprised many, the Vietnamese have gone. For a time some people tried to pretend that they had all changed into Cambodian uniforms and were still there. Nobody seriously argues that now. Mr. Colvin may disagree with me over that, and there may be the odd adviser there, but the Vietnamese troops have gone home and, as a result, the regime is crumbling. The Khmer Rouge is in a stronger position than ever before, because nobody thought about what would happen after the withdrawal, even though many people there were trying to smuggle messages to those in authority telling them what would happen and what is now coming to pass.
I would have settled for neutrality five years ago, until an acceptable Government in Phom Penh had been worked out, so that the Vietnamese could withdraw in an orderly fashion, provided that all concerned could be satisfied that the Khmer Rouge no longer posed a threat. It is too late for that now. The only way out now is to provide aid to the only faction that is offering any serious armed resistance to the Khmer Rouge, and that is the regime in Phnom Penh. I cannot see any other way out of the situation. If there is another way, I wish somebody would tell me, because time is short.
I come to some points relating to British Government policy about which I gave the Minister's office notice. This may be rather unfair on the Minister, as I said at the outset, although I think that I see the Minister dissenting, obviously indicating that what I say is not unfair on him. It would be good to have taking part in the debate a representative of the Ministry of Defence at the least. Ideally, because the authority for this whole issue goes much higher than the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office, one would prefer to hear the Prime Minister's view on the subject.
The only recorded interview of which I am aware on the subject of Cambodia, apart from a few brief comments that the Prime Minister made when she visited the border two years ago, was in the Blue Peter children's television programme—[Interruption.]—hon. Members should not 654 laugh, because that interview was rather more perceptive than some of those conducted on this subject by many of the pompous political correspondents. The right hon. Lady was asked a few awkward questions and I shall deal shortly with her replies.
The British Government's support year after year at the United Nations for the thinly disguised coalition which is a front for the Khmer Rouge is a matter of record to which I have referred. So, too, is our contribution through the United Nations border relief operation for the food that has helped to sustain the Khmer Rouge and its allies through the 11-year guerrilla war that has brought it to the point of having a real prospect of regaining control of Cambodia.
Today I shall address one area of Government policy about which I have given the Minister notice, and that is the fact that between July 1985 and October last year, British soldiers had been providing military training for Khmer terrorists, including the Khmer Rouge, and that since last autumn the programme appears to have been contracted out to former, sometimes very recently former, British soldiers.
The first report that I saw about that appeared in Jane's Defence Weekly, which is not regarded as a left-wing publication and which is probably read more by Conservative than Labour Members. The article was by a journalist named Mr. Robert Karniol, who is based in Bangkok and has excellent military sources, which is the most discreet way that I can put it. The article which appeared on 30 September 1989, was headed:UK trained Cambodia guerillas—terrorists, as I prefer to call them. The report said that training commenced in July 1985 and that the courses were conducted by serving United Kingdom military personnel said to be from British special forces, which I take to be a euphemism for the Special Air Services. It went on to say that those participating in the course were said to be members of the Sihanouk and Son Sann factions. That is probably how we privately describe them.
It said that among their achievements was the creation of a 250-man sabotage battalion which was no doubt responsible for planting many of the mines with which the country of Cambodia is now infested and which are reported to be causing up to 80 amputations a day. No doubt that sabotage battalion has done more destruction to the fragile infrastructure of Cambodia than could be repaired by any aid squeezed out of the British Government so far.
I spoke yesterday to someone who is personally acquainted with some of the SAS men who have been engaged in training Cambodians. He said that although the original proposal was to train supporters of Sihanouk and Son Sann, many Khmer Rouge soldiers started to present themselves for training. Apparently the training is taking place at purpose-built camps near the Thai-Cambodian border. It is being conducted by British soldiers in groups of 12. It is headed by a captain. Several NCOs are also involved. I was told that some of the SAS men have accompanied raiding parties of Khmer terrorists into Cambodia and that several British service men have been injured.
I recall discovering in the mid-1970s from someone who was in the SAS that one or two SAS men were killed in Malaysia. Through a friendly Member I tabled questions about the fatalities of service men in Malaysia. By God, there had been a lot of car accidents and swimming 655 accidents that year. I suspect that if any SAS men who have been involved in training Cambodians have been killed—I have no knowledge that they have—there will be car accidents in Thailand as people return from leave spent in Hong Kong, or something like that.
The person to whom I spoke yesterday said that SAS involvement with the Khmer Rouge and its allies was causing misgivings among SAS soldiers. I suggest that they are not a body of men who are given to crises of conscience. When the first reports of the involvement appeared in the autumn of 1989, Ministers refused to take Parliament into their confidence. Certain favoured journalists, however—I have spoken to one or two of them—were given background briefing by a Minister and civil servants to the effect that training had been given. Recent inquirers have been told that the training has now ceased. That no doubt accounts for the letter that I received from Lord Caithness, the Foreign Office Minister with direct responsibility for this part of the world. It is dated 19 October and contains this sentence:There is no British Government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or cooperating with the Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them.The key word in the sentence is "is". On 18 October—that is the day before I received Lord Caithness's letter—I tabled a question that put the matter in a slightly different form. I took it to the Table Office. I asked:If British service men have been involved in any military training for Cambodians".The question was returned by the Table Office on the bottom of the page the word "blocked" had been written in pencil. There was reference to an answer to a similar question of 30 October 1989. It was stated in that reply that it was not the practice to provide information of that nature. On the one hand, the Government wish their denials to be believed. On the other hand, it is not their practice to provide information of this nature.
§ Mr. Lawrence
I have a letter dated 19 October from Lord Caithness. It says:There is no British Government involvement of any kind"—the Minister is referring to support for the Khmer Rouge in any form—and never has beentraining, equipping or co-operating with the Khmer Rouge forces".That is the complete sentence.
§ Mr. Mullin
The position is that we are training Sihanoukists. The unofficial official position or official unofficial position, if the House follows my reasoning, is that we are training Sihanoukists and supporters of Mr. Son Sann. The problem is that after a few months of this military training, members of the Khmer Rouge started to present themselves for training. That is why some people are talking now who were not prepared to do so previously. A blind eye has been turned over a period of several years.
Let us suppose that the position is not quite as Lord Caithness has stated. Let us suppose that the unofficial official position is that we are training Sihanoukists, supporters of Mr. Son Sann and Khmer Rouge terrorists. If someone has his leg blown off by a mine in Cambodia, I do not suppose that it matters very much to that person whether the person who planted the mine was a supporter of Prince Sihanouk, or Mr. Son Sann or of the Khmer 656 Rouge. I am against terrorism in all its forms, as I know the hon. and learned Member for Burton is. I suspect that the British public will be surprised when they come to hear of these matters. They have not yet been told. The letter signed by Lord Caithness is extremely misleading.
The British people have not yet been told the truth but I am reasonably confident—people are talking now who have not talked previously—that in due course the issue will be fully aired. I advise those who wrote Lord Caithness's letter—I do not suppose for a moment that Lord Caithness had anything to do with it—to think carefully about the wording that they use.
Following the unwelcome public interest that was aroused by Mr. Karniol's report—a similar report appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, which is not a Labour newspaper, and there were several excellent television programmes—Mr. Dennis Gallwey, the MI6 officer responsible for the military training programme for Cambodians, was hastily withdrawn from his post at the British embassy at Bangkok. I gather that he has since retired. British advisers are, however, still to be found training Khmer Rouge terrorists in Thailand. The operation has been contracted out—privatised, one might say-to former SAS soldiers. That will enable Ministers, including Lord Caithness, and others to deny with hand on heart that the Government are involved in the training of Khmer Rouge terrorists.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
I shall add to what my hon. Friend is saying by quoting from a letter written by Susan Eliot, who has worked for many years with Cambodian refugees. She has evidence that in Malaysia, British advisers have helped to train Khmer Rouge guerrillas. She states:The training was conducted by Malaysian army officers, through the medium of English language, with British and American trainers acting as advisers. Not only were the troops trained together but they travelled to and from Bangkok.
§ Mr. Mullin
Complex arrangements surround the training and supplying of the various Cambodian terrorist factions. I do not pretend to know all the details. Malaysia and Singapore appear to be involved. We have access to Malaysia—at Johore Baru—and military facilities in Brunei for jungle warfare training. I do not know whether those facilities are being used. The SAS has certainly been active in Malaysia over an extremely long period. The training that I am talking about is taking place on the Thai—Cambodia border and British nationals appear still to be involved, whatever the precise arrangements are.
I invite the Minister to deny that British soldiers were training Cambodian terrorists between July 1985 and October 1989. I am not talking about the Khmer Rouge. It is no good if the Minister says that we are not training the Khmer Rouge and we would not dream of doing so. I am not talking about that. I prefer to use the term Khmer terrorists—those who plant mines in Cambodia and blow up bridges. It has been demonstrated that the Sihanouk faction works hand in hand with the Khmer Rouge. There are joint raiding parties and some of the weapons that are passed to the Sihanouk faction end up, for various reasons, in Khmer Rouge hands.
A film was made of a joint raiding party. I do not know how it was made. It was an extract from the Pilger film that appeared at the end of 1989. The film showed the raiding party looting a village and driving away a tractor and all the other bits of development aid that some good people 657 had no doubt saved for, to enable money to be spent to provide that aid. The party set fire to the village hospital, or clinic. We are up to our necks in that sort of activity. I should like to hear today—perhaps I shall not hear it today—the truth about what is going on. I predict that the Minister will choose his words with great care.
There is another little matter that will be of interest to students of Government policy on Cambodia.
When the hon. Member for Broxtowe and my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley visited Cambodia in September last year to witness the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops, they were surprised to discover that the official guest list contained the names of two Englishmen—Mr. Christopher Edward Wollaston Mackenzie Geidt, a name one cannot forget in a hurry, who worked for the Royal United Services Institute which is based in Whitehall and partly funded by the Ministry of Defence; and Mr. Anthony Leigh de Normann, who appears to be a member of one of our older families, too. Mr. de Normann was until recently, before he departed for Cambodia, a captain in the Royal Hussars.
When I asked the Ministry of Defence in what capacity these gentlemen were visiting Cambodia, I was told in a written answer on 18 December that it was at the invitation of the Hanoi Institute for International Relations. That is not true. According to covering letters and their visa applications Mr. Mackenzie Geidt's and Mr. de Normann's visit was at their initiative. Once they got to Cambodia their visit may have come under the auspices of the Hanoi institute—that would he fairly common—but the initiative came from them, so let us have no more nonsense on that point.
What is more, Mr. Mackenzie Geidt appears to have been rather economical with the truth in his visa application. In his letter to the Vietnamese embassy dated 11 September last year and written on RUSI notepaper, he says he is travellingas a representative of the Royal United Services Institute".He signs himself, "Assistant Director" and describes Mr. de Normann as his personal assistant.
Yesterday I talked to Group Captain David Bolton, the director of RUSI who, by a happy coincidence, is a native of Sunderland, so we had a lot in common, at least to start with. He told me that Mr. Mackenzie Geidt worked at RUSI from March 1988 until April 1990, not as assistant director but as an assistant to the director responsible for fund raising. He was self-employed; his job was purely administrative and it had nothing to do with Cambodia, the far east or any aspect of policy. Group Captain Bolton told me that Mr. Mackenzie Geidt did not travel to Vietnam and Cambodia as a representative of RUSI, and had had no business to be passing himself off as such. Of Mr. de Normann, RUSI had no record.
Again I ask what Mr. Mackenzie Geidt and Mr. de Normann were doing in Cambodia. On whose behalf did they go? To whom did they report? I gave the Minister notice of these questions——
§ Mrs. Clwyd
I have here what was described as the official guest list of the people who witnessed the Vietnamese troop withdrawal between 21 and 26 September 1989. As my hon. Friend knows, there were no official British visitors present to witness the withdrawal, because we do not recognise the Government of Cambodia. On the list, as guests Nos. 74 and 75 are 658 someone called Anthony Norman from Great Britain and someone called Mackenzie, also of Great Britain. They are described asFonctionnaire de I'Institut de Recherche Min Defence.That is what I, my hon. Friend and others have been trying to find out the truth about. That is why I have asked the Prime Minister for a public inquiry. I am not making allegations. Like my hon. Friend and others, I am asking for the truth. So far we have not been able to get at it.
§ Mr. Mullin
I entirely endorse the sentiments that my hon. Friend has expressed.
One might ask how it comes about that British taxpayers' money and British soldiers have been used and, in one way or another, are still being used to train Khmer terrorists in support of one of the most odious regimes in living memory. What possible interests can that serve in an area of the world in which we have little historic connection, yet in which we are training terrorists to plant mines to blow off the legs of Cambodian rice farmers? The is answer is, as I said at the outset, to be found in our satellite status in relation to the United States, of which this episode is only the latest and most humiliating example. I suspect that our Cambodian policy did not originate in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence: it began in Downing street. No doubt it was a product of the love affair between the Prime Minister and former President Reagan.
Some time in the mid-1980s the Prime Minister allowed herself to be persuaded to send the SAS to help the Americans with their latest crazy adventure in Indochina. Something similar happened during the Vietnam war when I believe a few SAS men found their way there. It may have been intended to confine the help to the Sihanouk and Son Sann factions, but somewhere along the line it got out of hand and we have ended up training the Khmer Rouge.
Anyone who saw the remarkable interview on "Blue Peter" on 19 December 1988 will realise that the Prime Minister has a view of the situation in Cambodia which is wholly different from that of all other informed observers. She said:I think there are probably two parts of the Khmer Rouge. Those who supported Pol Pot, and then there is a much more reasonable grouping within that title Khmer Rouge".When the interviewer expressed surprise at that she replied:I am assured by people who know.Who assured the Prime Minister that there are reasonable Khmer Rouge, and who are they? This, is the question that caused Lord Brabazon to self-destruct in front of the television cameras a year ago. I invite the Minister to tell us who these reasonable Khmer Rouge are, and where they may be contacted.
Short of a miracle, the Khmer Rouge stand a good chance of coming back to power in Cambodia. They already control a large part of the countryside. The familiar atrocities are already taking place. Within the past few months there have been a number of attacks on trains when everyone connected with the Government has been taken off and murdered on the spot. We shall have to live with the knowledge that British soldiers, British taxpayers and the British Government have in one way or another helped to bring about the return of the nightmare.
I repeat that nothing I say reflects on the Minister personally. I urge him to put aside the claptrap in his brief about our abhorrence of the Khmer Rouge and about all 659 the work that we are doing for a peaceful settlement and to concentrate on telling the House the truth about what we have been up to in Cambodia.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
I am always pleased to take part in debates on Cambodia. I have been fortunate enough to initiate most of the Adjournment debates on it in which we have exchanged views across the Floor of the House.
My interest in this area started when the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs visited Vietnam and all the ASEAN countries in 1986, since when I have been able to visit Cambodia in 1987 and 1989.
I share the sense of injustice about the Cambodia situation expressed by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). I share his sense of injustice about what the innocent people there have suffered, but I do not share his desire to bring in a lot of extraneous issues. We desperately want an end to the conflict and a better future for the Cambodians, and the hon. Gentleman did not deal at all with the excellent work being done by the permanent five——
§ Mr. Mullin
The hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair in saying that I did not deal with that. I appreciate that he disagrees with my interpretation of the agreement which it is being attempted to impose on Cambodia, but I dealt with it at some length and I should be grateful if he would acknowledge that.
§ Mr. Lester
I do acknowledge it, and I do not want to conduct a battle across the Floor of the House. My concern is for the Cambodians. The unilateral disarmament of the Hun Sen regime was not part of the document, and the hon. Gentleman did not refer to the five parts of the document which are essential for elections, human rights and so on. I admit that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the matter, but he did not give it the weight and credibility that I hope to give it.
In a sense, I also share the hon. Gentleman's view of the historical perspective, although it is easy in 1990 to forget the situation in 1979. Pol Pot had been perpetrating wicked policies on his people in 1975 and the world had sat on its hands, unable to think of any way of intervening. As the hon. Gentleman says, the Vietnamese swept into Cambodia. I suspect that that was not for humanitarian reasons but because there was a pro-Chinese regime on their borders. One of the great benefits of that invasion was that it deposed Pol Pot and brought that terrible period to an end.
Many people in south-east Asia were afraid of the Vietnamese, who had the biggest standing army in the area. People will remember the domino theory. It was said that the Vietnamese would sweep into Thailand and Laos and move down the peninsula. It was for that reason that the ASEAN group of nations came together and, with the Americans, signed a defence treaty with the Thais. As a consequence, the whole weight of the United Nations was subsequently turned to getting the Vietnamese to withdraw.
The difference between the situation in Africa and Tanzania and that in Cambodia was that the Tanzanians withdrew. I greatly regret that, at that time, none of us 660 could advise the Vietnamese not to make statements about the great grouping of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. They could have said that they had dealt with their own security situation and had driven into Thailand the hostile force that was attacking them. They could have said that they had relieved the situation in Cambodia, and could have asked the world to repair the damage caused by Pol Pot. If they had taken that line, we would not be deploring the current situation. That is the real historical perspective.
I share the hon. Gentleman's view about the coalition. I have said in the House that it was cobbled together for a specific reason. It is a difficult horse to ride, and it is even more difficult now that the Vietnamese have withdrawn. It is difficult for western Governments to justify recognising two thirds of the coalition. The hon. Gentleman did not mention that, in theory, the coalition is an external Government of Cambodia, although it is not recognised by the British Government as legitimate. Prince Sihanouk was the president and Son Sann was the Prime Minister. The Khmer Rouge is at the United Nations because its representative was the Foreign Minister. It was not that there was some magical arrangement to restore the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot to power. The coalition was formed from external Khmers, and that formulation has given the Khmer Rouge access to diplomatic channels. As a result, it has gained a great deal of prestige.
This is not a peculiarly British view. The credentials committee of the United Nations has consistently supported that formulation. On many occasions last year and the year before, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and I tried to do something about that because we did not want that to continue, especially after the Vietnamese had withdrawn from Cambodia. That is the true position; there is no cobbled-up scheme in which we have said, "Dear Pol Pot, we want to restore you to power and will therefore give you a seat at the United Nations."
My concern all along about Government policy is that it has not moved with the times. When the Select Committee went to Vietnam, it was told by the Vietnamese that they would leave Cambodia by 1990. The Vietnamese are straight talkers; anyone who has negotiated or talked with them will admit that. I suspect that their reason for leaving Cambodia in 1990 was that, by that time, they would be sure to have trained sufficient of the Hun Sen regime troops to sustain the security situation.
All my colleagues on the Select Committee believed them, and we suggested at that time that we should start to build bridges. That is what must be done if we want to see an end to the conflict in south-east Asia. I am happy to say that the Americans are now starting to talk directly to the Vietnamese Government at a high level. That is essential.
At that time, we suggested that the right thing to do was to take the Vietnamese at their word. We should have told them that in the meantime we recognised that there were enormous redevelopment needs in Cambodia and Vietnam. We should have started to talk to them then about what needed to be done when they left Cambodia. By talking to them in that way, we would not have been wielding a constant stick but offering a carrot and a little humanity and concern for the fact that, for one reason or another, these people have endured 40 years of war and conflict, which have had a devastating effect.
Our suggestion was not accepted. I suspect that it was not believed that the Vietnamese would leave Cambodia. One of our Ministers came back from a visit and told me, 661 I think in March, that he did not think the Vietnamese would leave when they said they would in September 1989. I told him that they would be gone by September, and asked what Government policy would be then I was one of those who saw the withdrawal.
If we want to get our policy right in solving the problem, and if we want to play a full part, we must recognise the coalition Government as legitimate. Over the years, we have given generous help in a way that many people do not understand to those in the camps on the Thai border. Those camps are closed. Some people are in camps run by Prince Sihanouk, some in camps run by Son Sann and other camps are run by the Khmer Rouge. There is no interchange. People cannot move from one to another.
Many of us saw the camps in daylight, at which time they are well presented and give one a sense of welcome that few places would offer. However, the situation is quite different at night. Our Government have sent policemen there to instil into the camps a sense of proper order and humanitarian living. Although we have done that, we have never recognised the coalition.
Even if we do not recognise the Hun Sen regime, we should at least talk to them. How can we develop the right policy unless we have interchange and understanding? A week on Tuesday, I raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who agreed that, as we recognise neither of the sides that form the supreme national council, and as every member of that council is acceptable to every other member, now is the time to start a dialogue. That would be a belated start, but at least it would be a start. I still press for that policy.
We now have an embassy in Bangkok, and I think that we were the first country to send a diplomat to Phnom-Penh after the Vietnamese withdrawal. He had strict instructions not to talk to the Government there but to deal with the aid programme that I have mentioned. His job was to see how we could begin to offer humanitarian aid through the United Nations and the non-governmental officers who work there for much of the time.
When we returned from our first visit, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I went to see a Minister at the Overseas Development Agency. Our reception was helpful, and we were able to persuade the Government to begin joint funding. Until then, all the work carried out by non-governmental organisations in Cambodia had been done entirely at their own expense. Hon. Members will know that the ODA, jointly with non-governmental organisations, funds pound for pound schemes which they put forward. That has been going on since 1987. I shall deal later with the aid situation.
I part company with the Opposition about what is in the best interests of the people of Cambodia. The situation is desperate, but nobody can come forward with a United Nations development aid programme to offer the Cambodians the sort of help that they need as long as there is conflict. I talked to the Soviet ambassador in Phnom Penh. He said that the Soviets helped in some ways but could not spend the budget that they allocated for their aid and development programme.
Many NGOs have told me that they cannot spend the budget allocated, because the desperate conflict prevents the distribution of sensible aid, especially the assistance that is desperately needed because of Pol Pot's activities—for example, assistance with waterworks and with developing major roads and major telecommunications 662 systems and opening up the country. We should ask ourselves how we can ensure a ceasefire and disarmament, and a future for the Cambodian people.
Following my discussions with Hun Sen the last time I was in Phnom Penh, I believe that the United Nations proposals satisfy the conditions that he sought. He always recognised that the Khmer Rouge exists, but he did not want it to exist in its own right as an independent power in a quadripartite system. He did not want a quadripartite system with Prince Sihanouk as an independent power, with his army; Son Sann as an independent power, with his army; the Khmer Rouge, with its army intact; and himself, as just one quarter of the system. He told me that he wanted a joint arrangement in which he represented the internal regime and the coalition—faulty though it is—continued to represent the external regime. Hun Sen felt that, if the Khmer Rouge were to be part of that coalition team, it was up to Prince Sihanouk to make it possible.
For a period, Hun Sen tried to see whether it was possible to bring Prince Sihanouk on side, to join his regime. If that had happened, Hun Sen plus the non-communists who were opposed to the Khmer Rouge would have been on their own. That would have been possible if China—the principal backer of the Khmer Rouge—had been persuaded to accept that proposition. At one stage, after many of hours of negotiation, Prince Sihanouk accepted it, but on returning to Peking, he changed his mind.
A supreme national council has emerged, precisely in the form requested by Hun Sen. It was negotiated in Tokyo, but the Khmer Rouge, which was not part of the negotiations, rejected it. The matter was renegotiated in Jakarta, and there is now in place a supreme national council comprising six members of the Hun Sen regime, two members from the Khmer Rouge, two from the Son Sann group and two from Prince Sihanouk. We should concentrate our attention on that council. It may be that there is still hassle because Prince Sihanouk was not part of the team and has now said that he would like to be chairman.
Some people think that he still has a role to play. I do not happen to share that view. If the coalition wishes and if the team of 12 puts its personal differences aside—we are looking to the future of a divided, war-torn country—and can accept Prince Sihanouk as chairman, I am sure that it will be possible to add another Hun Sen member. Having accepted the peace plan—or, so to speak, the camel—they are straining at gnats. If they believe in their country's future, they must come together and operate the United Nations plan.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South said that the only way out was to recognise Hun Sen. As one who has agonised over this matter, I must ask: if that happens, who provides the fire power to defeat the Khmer Rouge? Who provides the military ability to defeat the Khmer Rouge? I do not believe that there is a military solution. How much more suffering must the Cambodian people go through before a possibility is seen to work? As I have suggested repeatedly in the House, we should look for the Namibian solution, for what I hope will be the Angolan solution and for what I know will be the Mozambican solution—places where these civil conflicts exist. There are groups like RENAMO that are almost as bad as the Khmer Rouge. The Namibian and Zimbabwean solutions are a pattern that could equally apply to Cambodia.
§ Mr. Mullin
I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the alternative solution would be a coalition that included everyone except the Khmer Rouge. That has been the logical thing to do all along. If they chose, Prince Sihanouk, Son Sann and all the rest could form a coalition to defeat the Khmer Rouge. That is the coalition that we should underwrite, not, for heaven's sake, some coalition that includes the Khmer Rouge.
§ Mr. Lester
The hon. Gentleman's view differs from the view that Hun Sen expressed to me. As I asked, who defeats the Khmer Rouge? The Khmer Rouge has considerable forces. Hon. Members have seen films showing caches of arms and the rest. We know that guerrilla warfare anywhere in the world is almost undefeatable. One could go down that route only as a last resort, but I do not believe that it would bring peace and development aid to the Cambodian people and restore this beautiful country.
I should like to turn to the document that has been patiently negotiated in the principal capitals of the five permanent members of the Security Council. I am happy to criticise the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—I am on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which has a remit to do that—but it is wrong to do so in this instance without any knowledge of the diplomatic efforts that have been made to bring together such disparate people as the Soviets and the Chinese to sign an agreement and accept that they should stop backing their respective elements in the conflict. One should look at this intimately complex document, which tries to consider every possible variation that could occur.
The document refers to the transitional arrangements regarding the Administration. None of us could replace the Hun Sen regime in terms of the people who are doing the work. At one stage, it was suggested in a wild flight of fancy that the United Nations would take over the government and run it. That sounds all right, but I gather that there are only two or three Cambodian speakers in the United Nations. It would be impossible to come in from outside, take over a country and run it on that basis.
One requirement that had to be satisfied was that the regime in place should not in the interim initiate policies and take actions that the Chinese regarded as wrong and unfair. That is not an unreasonable negotiating position. According to the document, the Hun Sen regime will stay in place, with the United Nations supervising five key Ministries. Much can depend on what one means by "supervise". As I see it, that fulfils the conditions that Hun Sen wanted, and enables the solution to move forward.
I want to deal now with the military arrangements during the transition period. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South talked as though the only people who would be disarmed were the Hun Sen supporters, which would leave the whole country to be taken over by the Khmer Rouge. However, when one reads the military arrangements, one realises that they contain many important provisions. They refer toLiaison with neighbouring governments over any developments in or near their territory which could endanger the implementation of the comprehensive political settlemen…Monitoring the cessation of outside military assistance to all Cambodian parties…Locating and confiscating caches of weapons and military supplies throughout the country".It is constantly argued that the Khmer Rouge has two years' supply of arms in caches, but that point has been dealt with.
664 The document also refers toUndertaking training programmes in mine clearance.I share the feeling about the wickedness of the mines, which have been laid not only by the Khmer Rouge, but by all parties in the conflict. The Khmer Rouge has used them to try to destabilise villages. Mines have been floated down the Mekong and have been laid indiscriminately in paddy fields because the Khmer Rouge is trying to undermine the regime. Mines have been planted throughout Cambodia for a long time and it is a desperate situation. We want a ceasefire so that the mines can be detected and removed.
When dealing with the ceasefire, the document says:all forces will begin regrouping and relocating to specifically designated cantonment areas under the supervision of UNTAC. While the forces are in the cantonments, their arms will be stored on site under UNTAC supervision.That is what happened in Namibia. We are talking not about a one-sided disarmament, but about a multi-sided disarmament of all parties.
Item 19 states:UNTAC will then initiate a phased process of arms control and reduction in such a way as to stabilize the security situation".The document does not talk about undermining the security situation. If it was such as the hon. Member for Sunderland, South has described, I would share his view. However, the UN proposals are designated to stabilise the situation and to build confidence among the parties to the conflict.
The military element is the only hope. The one way in which we can deal with the Khmer Rouge is within this framework, backed by the Chinese and by the Thais. We must contain the Khmer Rouge and disarm it—and, of course, do the same for the other forces in the area. That will allow people to come back as individuals to take part in the elections, and no one disagrees about the desirability of moving towards elections.
It is easy to utter the phrase "free and fair elections". I am not sure that there are enough Cambodians left to form a Government and an Opposition through elections. I hope that there will be a coming together. One reason why I do not support the recognition of the Hun Sen regime—although I support maximum contact with it—is that, if one goes to the country and looks at the aid programme and at what people are trying to do, one sees that there are not enough Cambodians in the country to interface with those who want to help. There are not enough Cambodians in the departments or in planning because Pol Pot killed the majority of those who worked there.
The only hope for a genuine aid programme and for a genuine future for Cambodia is a coming together of those who now live outside the country and those within it. I base that comment on my feeling that, until there is an interface and people work together, any aid programme, including the United Nations Development Programme, will be frustrated by a sheer lack of people, however much we want to spend.
We hope that free elections will take place. We do not know whether they will produce something more in line with a Government of reconciliation, who will recognise the tremendous problems with which they have to deal. I should like to feel that that will be the case.
The supreme national council exists and has agreed to the framework agreement. All of us who have the interests of Cambodia at heart should now be working in every way possible to enable the council to function and to get over
665 the long-held and understandable bitterness in an effort to begin to initiate the United Nations plan. The plan has been worked over patiently since the meeting in Paris a year ago last August in all the capitals of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The plan now has the good will of those members and of the whole of the United Nations machine. The plan is now mandatory for the United Nations and includes a mandatory provision for the necessary finance.
When one talks to some senior Foreign Office people, one realises that they are concerned that the cost will be enormous; there is no provision yet in the Foreign Office budget to implement the plan which, along with other members of the United Nations, we are mandatorily obliged to support.
The plan is the best way to defeat the Khmer Rouge. I accept that either side could be be planning a new offensive to try to take political or military advantage, but I do not believe that any other solution is possible. The United Nations resolution calls on both sides to exercise maximum restraint in the intervening period before the United Nations action can be taken.
I am convinced that, without a ceasefire—without an end to the conflict—all our good intentions and attempts at assistance will be meaningless and useless. We should all be devoting our lives to considering how we can bring about a ceasefire, and I believe that our only hope of doing that is through the painfully negotiated United Nations plan. I hope and pray that the conference can be reconvened in Paris before Christmas and that all parties can then look forward to finding a solution, rather than harking back to all the tragic events that have occurred.
What of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South about military training? I have no knowledge of the matter, although I have read the repeated denials. I give a great deal of credence to the views of the then ambassador to Thailand who, of all people, should have known about it if the hon. Gentlemen's allegations are true. I have served on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs since 1982 and, my experience of British foreign policy is that a management-by-objective system is operated. The Foreign Office identifies an objective and all our policies are then designed to achieve that objective.
Given our relationship with the Association of South-East Asian Nations and our desire to see the end of the conflict and to restore relations with Vietnam, I cannot see how training Communists—or training anyone else, for that matter—in a civil war can be a part of our policy. That would be a complete departure from sensible thinking about how to achieve the objectives that the Foreign Office has identified.
I do not want to go down the highways and by-ways of the various weeklies and the various leaks. I want an end to the conflict. I want the Cambodians to be able to look forward to the future—something that has been denied them for too long.
I come now to the incident in Phnom Penh and the two gentlemen to whom the hon. Member for Sunderland, South referred. I do not know the background. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley that there was some sinister implication. I know that the matter is now the subject of civil action and that real concern exists about the allegations and their possible impact on the security of the two gentlemen. I remember speaking to them at length at the various receptions and at Angkor 666 Wat and the other places to which we were taken during our visit. I have always taken the view that the more people who can visit Cambodia, from whatever source, the better.
§ Mr. Lester
I do not care who pays for them. The more people who go there and see for themselves, the better. The reason why there has been a change in American policy is that people from the Heritage Foundation, no less, have been to Cambodia, as have senators and congressmen. They have seen what the hon. Member for Cynon Valley and I have seen and they have come back and explained that the Government are running the country, that they are not a Vietnamese puppet Government and that they deserve more respect and more contact than they have had in the past.
Now the American Government have agreed to talk to Hun Sen. I cannot understand the sinister implications of the presence of two very tall men in Phnom Penh, who travelled around with us with our Cambodian guide and then went to Saigon. I cannot understand what their motive is supposed to have been—what they are supposed to have been looking for and what they were supposed to do with what they saw, other than to form the view that the arguments that I have advanced for contact with the regime are the correct ones.
§ Mr. Mullin
I said nothing about sinister motives. I share the hon. Gentleman's view that the more people who go to Cambodia, the better. Perhaps it would be a good idea for Ministers to go and have a look round. Perhaps Mr. Colvin could make a visit too. If that happened, what we heard from the Dispatch Box might more accurately reflect the situation. I do not know what the men were doing there or under whose auspices they were there. But I do know—and I have given factual evidence to support my claim—that they were not truthful about whom they represented. Whoever is responsible—whether it is the men themselves or any Department for which they happen to be working—I should like to hear what they were doing there and why.
§ Mr. Lester
I respect what the hon. Gentleman said, but that was not the case made in the Pilger film, which is now subject to a civil action. The case in the Pilger film was sinister and very different from what the hon. Gentleman has described. Perhaps those two men simply have an interest in that part of the world; that might come out in the civil action. From my contacts and from the discussions that I have been involved in, I see no machiavellian plot. I see no secret service or any way in which those two people could be involved in actions in Cambodia and Vietnam which are in any way reprehensible. I am happy to leave the matter to the action to the civil court.
I have tried to be brief, but I am still completely involved in the situation and have contacts in all the different areas where most good can be done. I firmly believe that the best option for the Cambodian people is to use all our influence to get the Supreme National Council to function and begin to see the end of the conflict and the disarmament of both sides. Essential de-mining teams must also be brought in to prevent those dreadful daily tragedies of which we are all aware. We should set fair for 1991 with a real sense of hope for the future of the people of Cambodia.
§ 12 noon
§ Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)
I am pleased to take part in this debate on Cambodia, although I had hoped that we would have moved on apace since we first discussed this topic after the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) and I visited Cambodia some years ago. As he has said, we visited Cambodia again last year and saw considerable changes. However, the continuing fear of the majority of the population of a possible return of the Khmer Rouge cannot be over-emphasised, as I am sure the hon. Member for Broxtowe would agree. That is the last thing the population of Cambodia want.
Those who say that the Hun Sen Government do not have popular support should consider the fact that they have armed about 90 per cent. of the population with guns. There is a strong local militia throughout the country. If the Hun Sen Government were in any doubt about their popularity, I doubt whether they would have armed such a high percentage of the population when those guns could so easily be turned against the Government.
Anyone who suggests that the Cambodian Government do not have popular support obviously has not visited Cambodia and talked to a cross-section of the population. Instead, they are relying too heavily on newspaper reports that originate in Bangkok. They have not been to Cambodia to find out for themselves.
The Opposition believe that the United Kingdom Government have played a particularly intransigent role on Cambodia. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) has referred to the foreign Office, whose position, as on so many other issues, seems to follow the United States—a suggestion that the Foreign Office is always embarrassed by and quick to deny. That Foreign Office has barely changed its attitude for some years.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe and I were briefed before our first visit to Cambodia. The briefing was completely out of touch with the reality in that country at the time. When we returned and presented the facts at our debriefing, we hoped that there would be a rapid change in the United Kingdom Government's policy towards Cambodia. Alas, that did not happen.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South referred to the visit of the two Cambodian Ministers to Europe on a trip sponsored by various aid agencies. They met a very encouraging response from some countries, including Holland and Ireland. However, in the United Kingdom, although their visit was a success from the point of view of publicity, the only contact that the Foreign Office deigned to make was to send a couple of officials to an off-the-record briefing at Chatham house.
Someone who has long experience of working in Cambodia with the Cambodian people—an American—wrote a report after her visit to Chatham house when she listened to the two Ministers. She said:The questions [at Chatham House] came mostly from a representative of the Foreign Office"—again, I am afraid I have to refer to Mr. Colvin—and from a Thai embassy official [the minister counsellor…] Both were quite hostile and rude. They suggested that the Paris conference had failed because the State of Cambodia [Hun Sen's government] would not accept the involvement of the UN.It is regrettable that other people should have been so conscious of the Foreign Office's hostility in that general meeting.
668 Opposition Members have continually called for a reversal of British policy towards Cambodia. We have stated quite clearly what our priorities should be—an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms supplies to all factions, and immediate development aid from Britain and the United Nations. I have called for a public inquiry into allegations of British support for the Khmer Rouge and an immediate end to all such assistance, if it exists—we are anxious to establish the facts—from the west. It is to the west's great shame that, 12 years after the Khmer Rouge devastation of Cambodia, the Cambodian situation still remains desperate.
There is no doubt, and it is not an exaggeration, that the Khmer Rouge is still led by Pol Pot. Hon. Members have continually asked why the Prime Minister is rightly anxious to prosecute Saddam Hussein in a Nuremberg-type trial while she never calls for the prosecution of Pol Pot, who is alive and kicking and actively pursuing his old aims within Cambodia. We are all familiar with double standards, but nothing could be quite as glaring as the double standards in this case.
§ Mr. Cryer
Are there not also double standards in the press, for example? Members of the press frequently berate Members of Parliament for not being present in the House. Will my hon. Friend note that only the Morning Star is represented in the Press Gallery? As usual it is keeping a close interest in the subject, while The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail and all the posh papers are busily engaged elsewhere.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
I thank my hon. Friend for that point. As a former journalist, I am appalled that the Press Gallery should be so empty this morning, when we are discussing a matter which, as several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, is of great interest to the British people. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that they have never had such large postbags on any foreign affairs issue as they have had on the issue of Cambodia.
People throughout the country have great interest in what goes on in the House. It will be interesting to read the papers tomorrow morning to see exactly how much of the debate is reported. Certainly the press will have little comprehension of their readers' interests and those of the general population if the debate is not given sufficient space in the papers tomorrow morning. I agree that the Morning Star has consistently shown an interest in Cambodia. A few weeks ago I wrote an article for that paper on this subject.
I re-emphasise that the allegations of British military support for the resistance factions, including the Khmer Rouge, are too numerous and too serious to be dismissed lightly. That is why, on 10 October, I asked the Prime Minister for a public inquiry to discover the truth. If it is true, nothing could be more disgraceful than giving the Khmer Rouge training in mine warfare, because between 1975 and 1978 the Khmer Rouge killed at least 1 million Cambodians. It is now reported to have a hit list of at least 2 million Cambodians to be purged if the Khmer Rouge ever gets back into power in that country.
§ Mr. Mullin
My hon. Friend may recall that when Mr. Khien Samphan who is one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge was asked what lessons he would learn from the experience of the past few years, he said that the Khmer Rouge had possibly been too generous to its opponents during its four years in power. If that is one of the lessons 669 that he would learn from what happened in 1978, presumably he is proposing to draw the appropriate conclusions if the Khmer Rouge ever gets back into power again.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. We cannot over-emphasise the real danger of the Khmer Rouge returning to power.
There were three articles on Cambodia in Jane's Defence Weekly this week. I have already referred to one. The second is entitled "An end to peace talks—a return to war". It states:Guerrilla commanders and Western analysts say that war could come to Cambodian cities for the first time in the 12-year-old conflict.In the wake of major guerrilla gains in the rural areas in the past year, the Khmer Rouge is preparing an offensive to capture the provincial capital of Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor Wat.Hundreds of villages are already under the control of the Khmer Rouge and scores more under the control of non-communist forces of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the north.I am certain that that is a factual account of the true situation in Cambodia at the moment.
The Government have repeatedly denied that there is British Government support for the Khmer Rouge, but to my knowledge they have never specifically refuted the charge that SAS forces have been involved or that former members of the SAS have been to Cambodia on behalf of the Government; nor have they denied giving military support to the other resistance factions which are fighting alongside the Khmer Rouge.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South and the hon. Member for Broxtowe have both talked about the two men who were mentioned in the Pilger programme and elsewhere. I have never made any allegations about them; I have merely asked questions. It is legitimate to ask these questions, and today I am speaking on an issue that diverts from what we want to see happening in Cambodia now and in the future, because it is important to establish the facts. I am not prepared to be gagged by writs which have been issued against Mr. Pilger and myself by people who seek to prevent us from making any further comments on this issue.
§ Mr. Mullin
Is my hon. Friend aware that yesterday I received a letter from solicitors representing those two gentlemen in which, of course, they were careful to say that they would not wish to interfere in anything that I proposed to say in the course of my parliamentary duties, but which was clearly addressed to anything that I might say about them in today's debate?
§ Mrs. Clwyd
That does not surprise me. Clearly the tactic is to prevent us from pursuing the point and seeking to establish the truth. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer the question once and for all. He had prior knowledge of some of the questions that would be raised in the debate today. I suspect that, without a public inquiry, we shall never get at the truth of the matter.
The hon. Member for Broxtowe mentioned the two men we met in Cambodia. I want to set the record straight. I have already mentioned that they were on the official guest list when there were no official observers from the United Kingdom witnessing the Vietnamese troop withdrawal. I had a conversation with the two men, as did the hon. Member for Broxtowe. I suspect that he has had more conversations with them subsequently than I have.
670 They told me that they were there on holiday, but from conversation, it appeared that they were very hostile to Cambodia. Indeed, they knew few of the historical facts about Cambodia. I suggested that they should go over to talk to some of the non-politicians such as people from the aid agencies, who had lived in Cambodia and worked there for many years. I took one of them across to talk with the officials from the aid agency. They spent less than four minutes in discussion with them.
The following day we were taken with a large number of people from other countries to visit the temples of Angkor Wat. As hon. Members will know, Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the world. Most people who were looking at Angkor Wat were looking at it from that point of view. Those of us who were carrying cameras were pointing them towards Angkor Wat. Those two men were significant by their behaviour. They had the most sophisticated camera equipment of the whole party of 60 or so guests. I noticed that they were pointing their telescopic lenses towards the undergrowth surrounding Angkor Wat rather than towards the temples themselves.
There is nothing sinister in that chain of events.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
Yes, they were probably botanists. It would be interesting to establish that they were botanists. They may have been bird watchers or geographers. They could have been any one of a whole series of things.
There was an Indian journalist in the party. I did not voice my feelings about the two gentlemen, even though, as I said, their behaviour was significant. The Indian journalist said, "Those two guys over there stand out like sore thumbs. It is quite obvious what those two are up to." Hon. Members will be able to imagine what he was suggesting.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
He did not mention MI6, but he suggested that they might have been there on some kind of surveillance. They could have been surveying birds or the foliage.
§ Mr. Cryer
On the day before the John Pilger-David Munro film "Cambodia—The Betrayal" was broadcast, I saw the film. I wrote immediately to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence and to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They all had plenty of time, because my letter was on their desks the day after the broadcast, to explain to me why those people were in the party and who they were and to give me the rest of the background information that I requested. I specifically asked the Ministry of Defence to explain the circumstances in which it had apparently sent representatives there. Yet all we have had is complete silence. It is scandalous and disgraceful that elected Members of Parliament are not given information in response to legitimate questions.
§ Mrs. Clwyd
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. There have been so many incidents about which we have attempted to establish the truth and have been palmed off—either through questions being blocked at the Table Office or being given half-truths by Ministers. It is interesting that; following the Pilger programme to which my hon. Friend referred, the Foreign Secretary wrote a half-page article in The Independent. As far as I know, that is the first time that a Minister has responded to a 671 television programme in this way. I suspect that the Foreign Secretary did not write the article but that it was ghosted for him by somebody quite close to the Chamber and to him.
As some of the things that were said in that article deserve a response from those referred to in it, I wrote back to the Foreign Secretary saying that I had read the article with interest and pointing out that it failed to answer several important questions concerning Britain's role in Cambodia. For example, he had said:The British Government has never given aid of any sort to the Khmer Rouge, nor will it do so.I asked whether references to the British Government include former SAS officers who could be pursuing British Government policies in their retirement. In his article he attempted to dismiss my suspicions about the two men whom I met in Cambodia, but unless he is willing to say what they do and why they were in Cambodia, I cannot help but be suspicious.
When I came back from Cambodia, I went along to the Library to try to find out a bit more about the Royal United Services Institute, as I had subsequently discovered that the two men purported to be representing it. The Library made various inquiries on my behalf and I discovered that the RUSI is partly funded by the Ministry of Defence. When I tried to find out whether the two men worked there, the librarian was asked by the RUSI who wanted to know. When the librarian told the RUSI who wanted to know, it replied that the information was classified. If there is nothing to hide, I cannot see why that information could not have been given.
The Foreign Secretary did not deny that the two men whom I met in Cambodia were previously members of the British forces, but said that they were invited by the Institute of International Relations in Hanoi. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South has nailed that assertion. We know that an official invitation was secured for them by the Vietnamese embassy after they had applied for visas. Their visa applications did not mention such an invitation, but merely stated that the purpose was an unofficial visit to Indochina to assess the prospects for security and prosperity.
That sounds innocent enough, and perhaps their visit was innocent, but if it was, why was there so much secrecy? Why did they tell me that they were there on holiday? Why did they ask the hon. Member for Broxtowe to assist them to get to the front because they wanted to look at some of the fighting at first hand? No one has mentioned this so far, but I am sure that, were the hon. Member for Broxtowe here, he could confirm it. I am sorry that he is not here. Even if one is an ex-military man, I doubt whether one would spend a holiday in Cambodia, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, watching people kill one another or blowing one another up, unless one is there for another reason.
I again ask the Government to explain why the men were assessing the prospects for security in Cambodia at that time and on whose behalf they were there. I have been told that they are not, and were not at that time, members of the SAS, but what was their occupation? The information given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South makes us doubt their previous 672 occupation. Were they in Cambodia collecting information on behalf of the British Government or any publicly funded organisation?
May we please have an answer to those questions today? Whatever the role of those two individuals, broader and more important questions concern British and American training for resistance soldiers, including Khmer Rouge soldiers. There are too many reports from those living, working or reporting in Cambodia and outside for the allegations to be dismissed.
I must remind the House of a statement from a Cambodian Minister earlier this year:We're grateful to the British for offering supplies of artificial legs, but it would be much better if first they stopped helping to blow children's legs offThat is an appalling statement. We must know today whether or not that is true.
It is also important to consider Cambodia's desperate need for aid. Since 1979 it has been isolated by the west and has received no aid or trade to recover from the Khmer Rouge years and the American bombing. While the Khmer Rouge wages an active guerilla war—laying mines, destroying the infrastructure and terrorising villages—the Cambodian Government are running out of money. Soldiers cannot be paid and civil servants are being sacked in their hundreds. There are virtually no medical supplies to treat the victims of the civil war, and no resources to care for more than 150,000 people who have been displaced by the continuing civil war. With aid from the Soviet Union and eastern Europe drying up, the Cambodian Government are spending nearly half their total budget just fighting the Khmer Rouge and other factions.
The Opposition have repeatedly called for bilateral aid from Britain. Contributions to voluntary agencies and multilateral agencies are welcome—I do not denigrate them—but they are hopelessly meagre in the face of Cambodia's needs. The Government still refuse to give bilateral aid, because they refuse to recognise the Hun Sen Government. A Government who can arm 90 per cent. of their peasants with guns clearly have the support of those people and therefore also deserve support from us. Aid to Cambodia should flow immediately.
The Government say that they will wait for a comprehensive political settlement before they establish diplomatic relations and give bilateral aid. However, a comprehensive settlement means including the Khmer Rouge. If we wait for its participation in the peace plan it could leave aid donors and the Cambodian people waiting for months, if not years.
The United Nations General Assembly has now recognised the Supreme National Council as Cambodia's external representative, even though the council barely functions as yet. If the Government really wanted to give aid, they would have seized that opportunity to side-step the legalistic obstacle about diplomatic recognition and started the funds flowing.
The United Nations development programme has $40 million set aside for Cambodia and I believe that another $40 million is in the pipeline, but it is waiting for the go-ahead from politicians. We call for those funds to be released immediately. We have already suggested that a United Nations de-mining and mining awareness programme should be a top priority. Immediate aid would not only save lives now, but change the balance of power against the Khmer Rouge.
673 While Cambodia remains diplomatically isolated and economically strangled, it is in the interests of the Khmer Rouge to drag out the negotiations and to pursue its guerrilla war against a Government who are desperately short of money. Obviously, a change of policy today would change the balance of power in Cambodia.
One of the most petty restrictions on aid is the refusal to help with the repair of the main water filtration plant in Phnom Penh, which was smashed up by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot when they invaded the country. The hon. Member for Broxtowe and 1 visited that water plant. We understand that only 2 per cent. of the population of Cambodia has access to clean water supplies. That means that one in five children under five years old in Cambodia die from water-borne diseases.
The aid agencies are prevented from putting money into restoring the water filtration plant in Phnom Penh because the humanitarian label under which they are allowed to dispose the meagre aid that the Government give them is extremely tight. While "humanitarian" allows them to provide water wells in rural areas, it does not allow them to put money into restoring the water supply for the whole of Cambodia. That is a petty and short-sighted restriction, and I hope that the Government will have second thoughts about it.
A few countries, led by the United States and the Khmer Rouge representation at the United Nations last year, prevented the United Nations from operating in Cambodia. Some Governments, including ours, lacking first-hand information from Phnom Penh because of the non-recognition policy, are unduly optimistic about the United Nations proposals. While we are anxious to be optimistic about them and dearly want to see them implemented—that would achieve a ceasefire and the cessation of arms supplies-—I fear that it will be a long time before they are implemented. For that reason, many western Governments are putting off making any change to their aid and other policies towards Cambodia until there is a United Nations presence there. I fear that such an optimistic delusion recently led the Swedish Government to withdraw support from a trust which was operating a de-mining and mine awareness project in Cambodia.
Realistically, a negotiated solution is still far off. Time is on the side of the Khmer Rouge, so long as the West and ASEAN do not come to the aid of the Cambodian people. The Supreme National Council has so far failed to negotiate a comprehensive political settlement and agree what powers should be delegated to the United Nations. Sadly, the joint communiqué did not even mention a ceasefire.
I was in China at the beginning of September and spoke to, among others holding positions of power there, the Foreign Minister. While I was there, the Chinese made a statement which appeared on the front page of China Today. It called for a ceasefire and for all countries to stop supplying arms to Cambodia.
There have recently been reports of Chinese tanks being used in the offensive against the Phnom Penh Government. I raised the matter last week with the Chinese ambassador in London, who told me that the tanks were in the pipeline, as it were, from the beginning of January, before there was any discussion of the United Nations peace plan. I hope that China and other countries that have been supporting various factions in Cambodia mean what they say, because it is imperative that a 674 ceasefire becomes operational quickly and all countries are seen to have clean hands on the issue. I am not accusing this country any more than any other of having dirty hands in that respect. No one has clean hands in this matter, and I do not want this country to be indicted more than any other.
We welcome the United Nations intervention in Cambodia. Nothing would be better than a peaceful settlement, but the existing United Nations plan is inadequate. According to it, nothing happens until the Supreme National Council, comprising all the factions, agrees a comprehensive settlement. There will be no ceasefire, no United Nations peace-keeping or administration, and no aid. But with a Khmer Rouge veto on the council, the negotiations, and hence the war, could drag on for months. We all know that those are Khmer Rouge tactics now, as they have been in the past. The British Government, as a permanent member of the Security Council, should insist on a ceasefire and an end to all arms supplies—first, not last.
The Opposition believe that Pol Pot and all his accomplices should be in court, not in government. The Cambodian Government have accepted that some Khmer Rouge participation in the peace plan may be necessary for a peaceful solution. We accept that, but with two provisos. Those responsible for the genocide should still be tried for crimes against humanity, and if the Khmer Rouge continues to obstruct negotiations, the West should isolate and condemn them, not just wait for them to change their minds.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) for her assiduousness and dedication, especially to aid matters. She has asked my hon. Friend the Minister for the truth. I hope that when she hears it she will accept it, and not reject it just because it does not fit her Left-wing political mythology.
Among the catalogue of distortions, half truths, innuendoes and party political cracks with which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) larded his lengthy speech was his total failure to acknowledge that one of the reasons why we are having an unusually long debate this morning on Cambodia was my forbearance—under pressure from the Whips—to make a speech of appropriate length on the Courts and Legal Services Bill, which was the main subject for debate today. That may be one reason why the Press Gallery is empty and why the Chamber has been empty and is emptying even more now—I see the hon. Member for Cynon Valley departing, no doubt for important reasons. So I should be given some credit where credit is due.
I do not want to be too hard on the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, who also seems to have left the Chamber—perhaps he will forgive me if I speak in his absence. I know him to be extremely intelligent, which is why I can only assume that for much of his speech he was talking with his tongue in his cheek. He certainly has no monopoly of concern for the Cambodian people. Everyone wants peace in Cambodia; everyone wants a democratic development in which the Cambodians themselves decide their own Government and future. Everyone wants the rule of law to safeguard human rights and to protect them against Pol Pot, and no one wants this 675 tragic part of the world, where millions have died and the revelation of whose killing fields horrified the whole world, to continue its suffering.
It follows that the conspiracy theory on which Opposition Members are always so keen is manifestly absurd and cannot be contemplated by reasonable beings. That theory has developed to the point at which Opposition Members say that the British Government somehow stand out in opposition to the Vietnamese involvement in Cambodia; that the United Nations hardly exists in the matter; that we are nothing more than the puppet and satellite of the United States; and that we the British have been supporting the evil Pol Pot so that he may commit further atrocities. These absurd suggestions have been repeatedly made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and his colleagues and repeatedly denied by the Government, and I expect and hope that the Government will deny them again today.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South may be well informed, but it strikes me that he does not have too much wisdom. Some might think that his naivety is positively mind-boggling. One of the main parties to the Cambodian dispute was, is, and is likely to continue to be, the Khmer Rouge. It is numerically and militarily extremely large and it is very important politically. We would not be able to exclude it from the settlement. It cannot be wished away. No one can pretend that it does not exist. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote in an independent article, some of those who are now speaking loudest in condemnation of the Khmer Rouge were those who were speaking loudest in support of it earlier on.
The view of Cambodians and of their leaders, such as Son Sann, Prince Sihanouk and others whom the members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs have met in the past—it is not only our view—is that it is far better to have the Khmer Rouge within a quadrupartite coalition, in which other parties may be able to exert some control, than to have it excluded and driven to use its military might, numerical strength and political power to destroy the coalition that remains. To ignore that imperative seems to be appallingly naive.
A less important absurdity is to suppose—this is part of a theme that runs through the speeches of Opposition Members—that the United Kingdom controls events in Indochina or somehow can do so. That is preposterous. We have no control over Thailand but we are part of the United Nations, the body which is supported by the leaders of the Opposition parties. I am sure that they would express their support for it if they were here. It is, of course supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The way forward, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) so well said, is the United Nations peace settlement proposal. It was agreed at the General Assembly as recently as 15 October. It is not the only show in town, but it is quite a good one provided that everyone gives it support. It is important that everyone supports the transitional arrangements for the administration of Cambodia until an election can be held. It is important that everyone supports the ceasefire proposal and the recommendation that there should be an end to arms 676 supplies. We must support the human rights proposals so as to guard the Cambodian people against more Pol Pot atrocities. We must also support humanitarian aid.
Aid figures have been bandied about by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I did not hear my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe say, so I shall do so, that we have given an additional £15 million to help the refugees on the Thai-Cambodian border. That is in addition to the smaller amounts to which reference has been made.
We must support the formation of a supreme national council that will represent Cambodia at the United Nations in future. There is no other way forward. Instead of having a debate in which there is distortion, half-truth and innuendo, which characterise the speeches of Opposition Members—I do not want to anticipate anything that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who is now the only Opposition Member in his place, will be saying, but my description characterises the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, who initiated this important debate—would not it be better if both Government and Opposition Members made common ground, supported, inspired and perhaps guided to improvement the United Nations, leading to the sort of settlement that we all want, a settlement that will bring peace, security and happiness to those most tragic of all people, the Cambodians, about whom all of us in the House care very much?
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
The film by John Pilger and David Munro has stimulated a great deal of public interest and, as has been said, there is continuing interest in the tragedy in Cambodia which, over the years, has been publicised by all sections of the media. Films on the subject have been a useful reminder and a bitter exposé of the double standards that are betrayed from time to time by the United States and other western nations.
A number of questions have been asked about the Government's position. As I said in an intervention, I wrote to the Prime Minister who transferred my letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I also wrote to the Ministry of Defence, but it has not yet taken the trouble to reply and clarify the position. Such a reply would have been better than sending round a duplicated letter signed by the Earl of Caithness.
My letter was on the desks of the Ministers concerned the morning after the latest film, "Cambodia—the Betrayal" was shown and it presented them with a first-class opportunity to provide information to a Member of Parliament. Much useful information was provided by the television film. In one instance information was obtained from an American representative of a United States humanitarian institution. It demonstrated that the Khmer Rouge faction has a policy of presenting to western nations what it calls a liberal capitalist face. No doubt that is attractive to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which, over the years, has connived at the disruption of regimes that it regards as inimical to the liberal capitalist face. It supports regimes that present the opposite picture.
The Khmer Rouge faction headed by Pol Pot has supported that philosophy. It was confirmed in the film that, to the best of the film makers' knowledge and certainly from the direct evidence of an American journalist, such a policy was designed to make the Khmer 677 Rouge seem less menacing. The film also presented the view that people who were shown to be supporting the Phnom Penh Government were being murdered. It also showed that in the areas that the Khmer Rouge have overrun men and women are separated and there are forced marriages according to the pattern that operated in Cambodia prior to the entry of the Vietnamese liberators who freed the people from the Pol Pot horror.
I should like to emphasise, perhaps more than my hon. Friends, the matter of aid for Cambodia. It is a wretchedly poor country with a modest population of 6.5 million and, as has been said, pure water supplies reach only 2 per cent. of the population. The film showed the wretched plight of those people who have been unlucky enough to tread in the wrong place when they were engaged in the innocent but useful and important task of farming or when they were in rice fields in which thousands of mines have been planted.
I have asked some questions about our Government's contribution towards relieving the plight of the Cambodian people and about improving water supplies. As the film made clear and as has been known for many years water-borne diseases still kill children in Cambodia. They are relatively simple diseases such as diarrhoea which could easily be eradicated if the water supply could be improved.
On 22 October my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs,for what reason a proposal for the repair of a water filtration plant in Cambodia was turned down.Cambodia is a poor country. Only 2 per cent. of the population have pure water supplies. It might therefore be thought that, on the basis of common humanity and concern for poor people, the Government would respond. The Minister for Overseas Development replied:Oxfam applied in 1988 for co-funding of a water distribution project in Phnom Penh under our joint funding scheme. When we told non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam, that we were prepared to support projects in Cambodia, we indicated that we would prefer to consider smaller-scale development projects with a humanitarian element and not infrastructural projects concerned with restoring or maintaining major public utilities which are more usually the concern of government rather than nongovernmental organisations.This project fell into that second category and was therefore rejected. Since 1988–89 we have committed £565,000 to co-fund 12 projects in Cambodia carried out by non-governmental organisations, including five from Oxfam, and are currently considering five new proposals, including three from Oxfam".—[Official Report, 22 October 1990; Vol. 178, c. 23–24.]The Government's concern is that the rural population should have pure water supplies, but not, apparently the population of Phnom Penh. The Government must surely be aware that Cambodia, which is a small, agrarian nation, has suffered massive carpet bombing by their allies, the United States, that it has suffered the incursion by Pol Pot and that it is now suffering from a war within its borders. Therefore the task of overhauling city water supplies is large. Facilities are limited.
§ Mr. Bowis
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about water supplies and that nation's health. Presumably, this kind of project could come within the orbit of the United Nations agencies, to which our Government and many others contribute. I should have thought that, with a healthy water supply, the provision of 678 rehydration tablets and so on being part of the United Nations health campaigns, that body, rather than any individual Government, would be authorising such a project.
§ Mr. Cryer
If the United Nations were doing this, I should be delighted, but it is not. That is the problem. A fund of $40 million is earmarked for Cambodia; the only problem is that it has not been released. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the Government could have made a gesture through Oxfam, an organisation held in high esteem and without a political axe to grind. This project is ready to go ahead to improve water supplies in a highly populated area, thereby benefiting more people. I should have thought that, in common humanity, the Government would say yes, particularly given a ministerial answer to me. On 22 October, I askedthe Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list for 1988, 1989 and 1990 to the most recent practicable date the development aid given to Cambodia by the United Kingdom Government".—[Official Report, 22 October 1990; Vol. 178, c. 22.]The Minister said that in 1988–89 we provided £46,656 for rural water supplies. In 1989–90, we provided nothing and we are not committed to providing anything in 1990–91. Elsewhere under the same heading in the answer, we were told that the United Kingdom will provide £7,570 in 1990–91. When I said that that might be the annual cost of the Minister's drinks cabinet, I was exaggerating—it would perhaps be the cost of the drinks cabinets of four or five Ministers. It is a paltry sum. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may think that there are no adequate schemes suitable for financing, but there is an alternative and it should be adopted. It is disgraceful for the Government to turn down a scheme that could provide near-immediate relief to some people in Cambodia. A massive programme is needed. We are talking about many millions of pounds to provide pure water for the population of Cambodia.
The Government have allocated £7,570 for a pure water supply in the rural region of Cambodia. They are the same Government who, this week, proposed that £34 million should be allocated to ease the unification of West Germany and East Germany. I do not object to the money being used in that way, but I believe that the two cases are very different. West Germany and East Germany both have relatively sophisticated economies and the provision of pure water is not questioned in either country. I criticise the Government's paltry efforts in those terms.
In the written answer, the Government say that the amount committed for primary and secondary schools is nil. Nil is committed to community schools and to the World Council of Churches. The amount committed to preventive health care services in Kampot is £192,250. Nil is committed to primary health care under the first heading. Under the secondary heading, £61,433 is committed. Nil is committed to the Takeo canal irrigation. As I have mentioned, £7,570 is committed to rural water supply. The sum of £43,604 is committed to the animal vaccines project and the Ministry of Agriculture, for some reason, gets the magnificent sum of £54. Agricultural development gets nil. The engineering assistance programme will receive £35,985, which contributes to the grand total of £340,896. That is relatively paltry in view of the needs of the population, which is currently 6.5 million. 679 However, if action is not taken on the political front to give support to the Phnom Penh regime, the population will certainly diminish.
The sums for medical aid are relatively—and significantly—paltry, bearing in mind that it has been reliably reported in the John Pilger programme and in the press that there are 80 new amputees a day. Let us be conservative and say that there are about 500 new amputees a week. If we, with our national health service, had to cope with a sudden influx of 500 new amputees a week, we should be hard pressed. There is a need for massive sums of aid which the Government are not prepared to give. It is true that in 1990–91, there is a commitment of £1 million—which is very welcome—through the United Nations Children's Fund, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation, through the World Health Organisation and through the World Food Programme. However, it is still not enough to make Cambodia a well-fed, healthy and confident nation.
We have talked about the political solution. I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) to say that I was afraid that programmes such as, "Cambodia—The Betrayal" are in the minds of those who tabled the amendment in the House of Lords to ensure that balance is a legal obligation and subject to challenge in the courts. That would mean producers looking over their shoulders the whole time, whether they were producing programmes for radio or television. No such restriction would apply to the press, because the Government are certain of the press. The press is mainly owned by friends of the Conservative party so it can be relied on.
The problem about which I am concerned was amply demonstrated in the debate yesterday. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) seriously suggested that "Start the Week" was a subversive programme which did not put forward the doctrine of the enterprise culture with sufficient vehemence and zeal to match his standards. I am happy to say that he was laughed at, even by a number of Conservative Members. He supported the amendment because he is on the far right of the Conservative party, which wants comment on the position in Cambodia to be stamped on by the threat of legal action whenever pressure is brought to bear by the Government and their acolytes.
Suppose that the Government get wind of the fact that a fourth Central Television programme is to be presented by John Pilger and produced by David Munro. A couple of people could go off to the courts to obtain an injunction to prevent the programme from being shown, supposedly in the interests of ensuring that Central exercised due impartiality—now no longer merely the subject of a guideline but the subject of an obligation. That spectre raises its head. The Government know that, with a few honourable exceptions, the British judiciary would warmly welcome such a request, and that an injunction would be granted with a speed that would stun those who have sustained industrial injuries and who are waiting for a court hearing. The broadcasts to which we have referred with much praise are in the minds of those who have introduced the legislation. The two are not disconnected.
In the programmes, serious questions were raised about the malevolent attitude of the State Department of the United States towards Cambodia—the result of the 680 Americans' continuing hatred of Vietnam and the fact that the liberators of Cambodia following Pol Pot's holocaust happened to be on the wrong side of the political tracks. In that, the Americans have been aided by the Chinese Government—of whom the British Government were rightly critical following the Tiananmen square massacre. The traditional hostility between Vietnam and China is being exacerbated because the United States and China have a common purpose—although perhaps not a direct purpose: they are isolating Cambodia because of the assistance that it received from Vietnam, which it recognised and does not repudiate.
I welcome the United Nations intervention but I seek a solution that excludes the Khmer Rouge. The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) advanced the extraordinary argument that, because the Khmer Rouge has a lot of arms and a lot of supporters—although he did not specify how many—they must be included.
That argument does not find favour on the Conservative Benches when it is applied to the IRA. The Provisional IRA has some support in Northern Ireland; there is no question about it. If it did not, its campaign could not be sustained. The Provisional IRA keeps blowing people up—innocent people, very often—although not on anything like the same scale as Pol Pot. The principle is the same.
What do the Government say about the Provisional IRA? Only this week, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said at the Dispatch Box that the Government were having nothing to do with these people and that their outrages would not divert us one millimetre from our purpose of bringing peace to Northern Ireland and combating terrorism. If that argument is good enough for the Provisional IRA—whose activities are on a minute scale compared with those of Pol Pot—why is it not good enough for the Khmer Rouge?
The hon. and learned Member for Burton argues that, because the Khmer Rouge are there, they must be embraced and padded round with a few liberal capitalists to prevent them from bringing about another holocaust. The argument seems to be that we should somehow shroud the Khmer Rouge round to stop them massacring people. Humanity's view is usually that those who kill people on a massive scale are beyond the pale and outside accepted standards of conduct and that we must therefore isolate them rather than embrace them. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) said that it was a pity—what an unhappy chance—that the Khmer Rouge was given a seat in the United Nations. He argued that it was just unfortunate that in the embrace of the Pol Pot regime, it became part of the coalition which had United Nations representation, and that it had nothing to do with the fact that it was a Pol Pot faction. Imagine what would happen if the Provisional IRA were invited to take part in a scheme and was presented with a seat at the United Nations. Would we say that we supported the IRA because it had been given a seat in the United Nations? That sort of logic does not stand scrutiny.
The Opposition believe that we must have nothing to do with Pol Pot. We must isolate and separate the Pol Pot faction. It must not be involved in the negotiations. If the Pol Pot faction is well armed, as the hon. and learned Member for Burton claimed, with justification, how are we to disarm it? Are we going to disarm the Phnom Penh Government and the population of Cambodia which fears for its life in the face of the Pol Pot terror 40 miles from 681 the capital and leave Pol Pot alone? Or are we going to disarm Pol Pot first? What is to be the procedure? Once arms have been given to people, it is very difficult to take them away, as we found in Zimbabwe before the Smith spectre was finally laid to rest.
I support the United Nations. The Government are now invoking United Nations support, but I wish that they were a little less selective with regard to the United Nations. For example, I wish that the Government would support the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and stop building Trident nuclear weapons because that is a United Nations obligation. I support that treaty and I support United Nations intervention in Cambodia on a fair and square basis arid I support the United Nations in other areas.
§ Mr. Mullin
A couple of years ago I had quite a long conversation with the Foreign Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Co Thach about United Nations solutions for Cambodia. He told me that the Vietnamese were a little sceptical about them because over the past 40 years four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council had invaded Vietnam.
§ Mr. Cryer
My hon. Friend has made a valid point and he is right to be sceptical. People are looking to a peace plan simply to gain support for their hope that peace will come to Cambodia and that the Pol Pot terror will not be inflicted on that poverty-stricken country once more.
We need a commitment from the Government to provide more aid to that poverty-stricken, illness-ridden country. We also want a commitment from the Government to isolate Pol Pot completely. It would also not be a bad idea for a Government commitment to arraign Pol Pot before an international court of justice. The Government are talking about doing that with Saddam Hussein, and his infringements of civil liberties, although manifest and to be condemned, are not on the scale of Pol Pot's. A commitment to try Pol Pot would be extremely important. With those commitments, we could begin to accept the integrity of the Government's attitude.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
This is a very important debate and the commitments requested by my hon. Friend must be taken seriously by the Government. When the Minister replies, will he tell us whether the situation is likely to shift or will we simply plough on with the situation that existed before and with expressions of sympathy and concern while there is back-door assistance to the Pol Pot regime? People outside this place will not understand if we do not today get the commitments that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has requested.
§ Mr. Cryer
I share my hon. Friend's view.
I have received a letter from Mr. Jeremy Barlow, the Oxfam area campaign organiser for Yorkshire and Humberside. I am not aware of his political views so I am not quoting someone who I know is sympathetic to the Labour side, the Conservative side or any other side. He said:While Oxfam has welcomed the UN peace plan as offering some prospects of peace in the country, we are deeply concerned that there is still no ceasefire in the country. While the political negotiations continue, ordinary people continue to suffer and more innocent civilians are maimed by mines. Furthermore, while the fighting continues there is little prospect of increased international aid being forthcoming. We understand that the United Nations development project has around $40 million set aside for projects in Cambodia. It is a 682 tragedy that this money cannot be released given the urgent needs inside Cambodia which Oxfam sees in its day-to-day work inside that country. The continuing conflict in the country and the lack of large-scale Government and UN and is severely hampering the efforts of the Cambodian people to recover.That is from an agency which has been doing more than most to help the Cambodian people to recover.
We do not visit all the faults on the Minister. We say that it is not his individual fault, he may be a decent individual, and so on. However, he represents the collective responsibility of the Government today. Everything that he says has been vetted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He dare not step out of line. What he says represents Government policy. If he disagrees with it because he feels that the Government are supportive of a bloodthirsty terrorist on a scale not seen on the face of the earth since Adolf Hitler, if he thinks that the back-door assistance to Pol Pot is wrong, immoral and outrageous, if he thinks that overseas development aid to the Cambodian Government is a tiny fraction of the amount of money spent on the privatisation of electricity, for example, lining the pockets of City gents and organisations that are doling out money to the Conservative party and if thinks that the whole matter is immoral, he has a course open to him. He can either stay within Government policy and regurgitate the platitudes of concern or he can resign. The Minister is not just an innocent pawn; he represents collective responsibility, and we shall judge him on that.
§ Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) referred to a balance in broadcasting. I hope that this broadcast debate will be shown to have that balance. I agree with many of the points that were made by the hon. Members for Bradford, South and for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin). However, I depart from the hon. Member for Bradford, South when he seeks to put the entire blame for the history of Cambodia on the shoulders of the Government and suggests that all the solutions to the future of that unhappy nation also rest within the House of Commons and within Government Departments linked to it.
My interest in Cambodia began with some keys that my children were collecting to take into the local "Blue Peter" collection point. That excellent programme stimulated them into doing something about raising money for the children of Cambodia. My interest has been stimulated by subsequent programmes, such as John Pilger's television documentaries and films such as "The Killing Fields" which have dramatised the scene for us. I say that in a good sense and in a less good sense. Documentaries and films have brought the matter to light for us, but they have occasionally over-dramatised the reality.
I pay tribute to the work of Oxfam and the way in which it has kept us informed. I pay tribute also to a young constituent, a photographer, who has twice been to Cambodia and brought me pictures of the terrible devastation of the people and to the land.
I was saddened by the latest of the Pilger films. I had hoped that it would continue the good elements of the Pilger documentaries, but it trod on too many matters of controversy and exaggeration for its own good. When a case is exaggerated and when there is too much political sniping, the message is undermined—and the message is: what can the world community do to look after those people?
683 I hope that this debate will return to the issue of the Cambodian people themselves and to the way in which we should seek to protect the future of those people who remain. Through the swirling mists of Indochinese history—from some great historical and cultural moments in civilisation—Cambodia has come through the murky period of the Vietnam war to the horrors of the Pol Pot regime. That is where we must begin.
We are talking about a regime that sought to weed out systematically by killing anybody in the country whom the regime and Pol Pot felt was capable of acting or thinking for him or herself. Those are the people we mourn. They are not here to pick up the pieces in the future Cambodia, which we hope will be free. Sadly, those are the people to whom the hon. Member for Sunderland, South referred when he talked about people being photographed before their deaths. I am sure that he has seen—I have seen this only in photographs—the memorials where row upon row of skulls mark the thousands of people who were murdered in that totalitarian barbarity.
I find it irrelevant when people talk about the Vietnamese coming in terms of either liberation or aggression. I believe that the Vietnamese stopped the total annihilation of the Cambodian people. We should acknowledge and accept that. Yes, it may have been illegal and have gone against all the tenets of United Nations rules and normal practice in international affairs, and, yes, there are dangers that it could be taken as an example to justify other invasions or other annexations of which we are all too aware at the moment, but I do not believe that at that moment anybody else could or would—both those words are important—have acted to save the Cambodian people as did the Vietnamese.
At the moment, in part of Cambodia, under the governance of Hun Sen and the Phnom Penh Government or regime—whatever one likes to call it—there is a partial return to some sort of normality. It is not normality as we know it in the western world or as we see it increasingly in many parts of the developing world, but it is a giant step for mankind when we remember the pictures of the dead, depopulated and motionless cities at the end of Pol Pot's rule. Gradually, bicycles are returning to the streets and trade is beginning again. We have a duty in this House, in this country, in the United Nations and through all the agencies at our disposal to find ways of assisting that normality to spread throughout the rest of the country.
United Kingdom policy has been criticised in this debate. It is not even-handed to do so, because one can also be critical of the past policies of the United Nations. It is not the fault of east or west, of China or America, but of all the countries that have supported the United Nations resolutions in the belief that that was the right way to obtain Vietnam's removal and some return to independence for Cambodia. It is not the fault of east or west, and it is certainly not the fault of the western alliance. The state of affairs in Cambodia has been supported by all the non-aligned countries as much as by the aligned countries, by the developing as well as the developed, in their votes at the United Nations. Not enough tribute——
§ Mr. Mullin
The hon. Gentleman's comments contain an element of truth, but many of the developing and 684 smaller countries have been leaned on extremely hard by China and America, which are basically the principal villains of this terrible state of affairs.
§ Mr. Bowis
There is an element of that. All countries, including in particular the ASEAN countries, have contributed to that policy. Not enough credit has been given to the responsiveness off the British Government in recent months, and in the past year or two in particular, to the words and actions of both sides of the House as much as anything.
The British Government have taken a lead in beginning to change that policy. We have considered the United Nations seat. That is not the most important aspect of this whole area of policy, but it is symbolic. The British Government have moved ahead of the pack and of their allies by saying that, if the matter came up again, the British Government would not vote for its continuation. As it happened, the so-called alliance withdrew and resigned its seats, so the question did not arise. However, some credit is due to the British Government for their influence on America and its allies in beginning to move towards the peace settlement that we hope is possible, the bilateral talks and so on.
The policy on Vietnamese withdrawal has largely been implemented. I hope that it is right. It will have been right only if it leads to a position in which a true and lasting settlement can be agreed with confidence. There are dangers ahead without that support for the present regime, but nevertheless that is one part of United Nations policy which has been accepted in most parts of the world, and, indeed, by Vietnam.
We must now turn to the future. Anyone who goes to Cambodia and comes back and reports to people such as myself brings back a message of despair. It is despair at the military threat that faces the people in what is at least a partly free Cambodia, as well as despair at the financial threat that faces it in the form of poverty, disease, hunger and lack of world support. Collectively, the world community, not just Britain, has a role to play in dealing with both of those threats.
Aid has been mentioned and debated across the Chamber today. Some £1.25 million this year has been sent to United Nations agencies. That is why I raised with the hon. Member for Sunderland, South the possibility that some of it could be used for water treatment, health and so on. Then £565,000 of British money has been sent this year to United Kingdom charitable organisations. Another £100,000 has been sent to displaced people within Cambodia. That is money. It is not the large sums that one could give to a secure Government which could control the spending of the money and in which one could have total confidence, but it is a start. I am the first to urge my Government to provide aid, encouragement and eventually investment for Cambodia, and I shall continue to do so.
We should acknowledge that the money has been sent not only to refugees on the Thai border but to areas within the influence of the Phnom Penh Government. That is good. However, the military threat is probably the most urgent. Whatever accords are reached following the Jakarta agreement, I hope that we shall be sensible and positive but also wary.
I have not been to Cambodia, but I was in Namibia in the run-up to that country's independence. I saw the excellent work that the United Nations did in 685 peace-keeping and the registration of electors in the most difficult of circumstances and subsequently in the free and fair elections that were held. But in that circumstance, the United Nations was aided by the inestimable value of genuine acceptance by the South West Africa People's Organisation—democrats—the rule of law and the need to abide by the democratic decisions of the people.
I am not yet convinced, and we have no grounds to be convinced, that that is true of the Khmer Rouge. When, and only when, those principles are convincingly upheld by the Khmer Rouge and its leaders—its leaders must not include Pol Pot—we can have a little more confidence that we are moving towards a solution which can bring some sort of peace and stability.
I began by speaking of the keys that my children collect. I am asking my Government to go on looking for keys to the solutions for the problems of this unhappy country. I do not seek the key to a prosperous future, or the key to a secure future, or the key to a peaceful future. I seek a key to any future at all, because at the moment Cambodia has no future and the world owes it, literally, a living.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) for providing the House with a fresh opportunity to discuss progress by the international community towards a peaceful settlement of the continuing civil war in Cambodia and an end to the suffering and misery of a peoploe who have known conflict for so long. It is the hon. Member's good fortune that we should have had an opportunity today for a full debate. I know that, for professional and personal reasons, he has a long-standing interest in, and a deep knowledge of, Cambodia.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who spoke earlier, has asked me to say that he is unable to be here for the winding-up speech.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South suggested that British policy was determined by American thinking. However, I am neither a covert nor an overt member of the CIA. I am not employed by the State Department, and I have no contact with it save in my ministerial capacity. I hope that he will accept that I am to some extent qualified to answer this debate as a Minister.
I recognise that this subject is of great concern to the hon. Member and others on both sides of the House, and I shall be commenting later on the remarks of which he gave me notice. However, I hope that he will forgive me, and understand why, if first I deal with some wider political developments.
When the House last debated this issue, my hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State forecast:We may be approaching a decisive stage for Cambodia's future."—[Official Report, 9 July 1990; Vol. 176, c. 1530.]He was right, for I would now say that we have reached a crucial moment in our efforts to restore peace and stability to this unhappy country.
Recent developments have demonstrated the commitment of the world community to ending the fighting in Cambodia. Those most closely involved in the conflict have shown their willingness to work, within the terms of an internationally agreed framework, to achieve peace. After too many years of suffering and desperation, the 686 Cambodian people have some hope for the future. This is the right time to consider the progress that has been made so far and the way ahead.
Like many of our friends and partners, we have consistently argued that the only way to bring lasting peace to Cambodia and an end to the terrible plight of its people is through a comprehensive political settlement. The Cambodian people must be allowed, ultimately, to decide their own future, but there cannot be an end to conflict if the settlement excludes any of the main parties to this dreadful dispute. To do that would only prolong the war and condemn the Cambodian people to indefinite misery. What is needed are arrangements that will ensure a peaceful and neutral political environment under impartial United Nations supervision in the run-up to free and fair elections.
During the course of the year, as is well known, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council worked out the elements of a political settlement involving the central role of the United Nations. In New York on 27 and 28 August, the five reached an agreement on a framework for peace in Cambodia. The document is extremely important, the details of which are worth spelling out.
The framework gives some hope for the future and provides safeguards against the return of the terrible horrors of Cambodia's past. It outlines the transitional arrangements for the administration of Cambodia until elections can be held. It covers military arrangements, including a monitored ceasefire and an end to external arms supplies. It covers arrangements for free and fair elections under United Nations auspices, including comprehensive human rights provisions to guard against any return to the atrocities of the Pol Pot years. It also includes international guarantees. The Government believe that that is the way forward.
§ Mr. Mullin
One has to have dropped off a Christmas tree from a great height to believe that the Khmer Rouge, given its history and its attitude towards other people—never mind free elections—could possibly accept the outcome of any free elections. It is not worth being included in those elections. Its participation is not credible, it is wild fantasy.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I understand the hon. Gentleman's scepticism, but we must press in that direction. When the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations and all the parties in that tragic country—the wicked as well as others—have accepted the framework as a way forward, we cannot fail to press in that direction. That is the basis of the Government's policy. I put it forward as the basis of an honourable policy designed to try to bring peace to that country even if the hon. Gentleman seeks to disagree that it will succeed in that objective.
The hon. Gentleman and others have argued that the framework does not represent a realistic policy and that Cambodia should, in effect, be handed over to the non-elected rule of the existing regime.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Others have. Could such proposals attract the support of the people in the Cambodian parties? Without co-operation, a settlement in Cambodia is not possible.
687 At a meeting in Jakarta on 9 and 10 September, all four Cambodian parties formally accepted the five permanent members' framework in its entirety. That is what was stated. They also agreed to form a supreme national council that will represent Cambodia in international forums and, in the context of a comprehensive political settlement, embody Cambodian sovereignty.
The creation of the supreme national council has already had one significant and welcome effect. When the 45th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 18 September, the existing occupants of Cambodia's United Nations seat—the Resistance Coalition National Government of Cambodia—announced that they would leave it unattended. We and many others were most deeply pleased to see the end of the previous totally unsatisfactory arrangement. Had it been necessary, we would not have shrunk from action against the status quo, but the situation was resolved.
§ Mr. Mullin
We did shrink for a decade. We supported the seating of one of the Khmer Rouge leaders as the representative of Cambodia.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The important point, as I have emphasised, is the way forward now, and the way forward is eased by that development.
Since those events, the entire international community has given its backing to the peace process that is now under way. On 20 September, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 688, which confirmed strong support for the current efforts and pressed the Cambodian parties to work together.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a similar resolution unopposed on 15 October. That was a remarkable development, for it was the first time for 11 years that a Cambodian resolution commanded universal support. Both resolutions are forward-looking. They do not ignore the atrocities of the Pol Pot years. They certainly do not condone them.
The whole purpose of the present initiative is to prevent a return to those horrors by endorsing the five's framework. Both resolutions signal world support for the comprehensive human rights provisions, and we believe that they deserve the full support of the House. That is the only way for further significant progress.
Senior officials of the permanent five held the latest in their series of meetings on Cambodia on 15 and 16 October. They took the opportunity to discuss the way forward and all agreed on the importance of maintaining the momentum of current activity. We hope that informal meetings of interested countries will take place in the coming weeks and that that will lead to a meeting of the co-ordinating committee at the Paris conference in November, at which the framework produced by the five will be turned into a detailed settlement plan. That could, and we hope it will, lead to a plenary session of the conference at ministerial level before the end of this year.
That is an ambitious proposal and timetable. It will require the commitment and co-operation of all concerned if it is to be met. No one can underestimate the difficulties that lie ahead, such as the high degree of mistrust among the Cambodian parties. That is a matter of concern, 688 because, since its formation in Jakarta on 10 September, the supreme national council has failed to reach agreement on the chairmanship arrangements.
As a result, that council has been unable to appoint its representative to occupy Cambodia's seat at the United Nations and cannot function properly in the detailed negotiations that are now necessary for a settlement. At their recent meeting, the permanent five urged the Cambodians to settle their differences so that the supreme national council could play its proper role in the peace process.
The continuing fighting in Cambodia is also an obstacle to further progress. Hon. Members and others have criticised the British Government, the five and the international community for failing to call for an immediate end to hostilities in Cambodia and an end to all outside arms supplies.
Everyone recognises that, without a peaceful situation in Cambodia, current efforts to achieve a settlement will not be successful. That is why we have repeatedly called on all parties to the conflict to stop fighting and to co-operate to the full in working out the details of a comprehensive political settlement. That is why the permanent five, the United Nations Security Council and the entire United Nations General Assembly have called on those parties to exercise maximum self-restraint in the interests of achieving a settlement.
§ Mr. Mullin
That is what we said in public, but in private we have armed the factions that we support, one of which happens to be the Khmer Rouge.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I said that I was coming to the hon. Gentleman's comments on that matter. I hope that he will bear with me and allow me to reach them in due course.
A formal ceasefire, which will require monitoring and an end to arms supplies to the parties, must be part of the comprehensive settlement. There will be no agreement in isolation in advance of a settlement.
§ Mr. Cryer
The Minister is right to express concern about international arms supplies to Cambodia. Have the Government, while waiting for an international settlement to be reached, made any representations to other western Governments about preventing arms supplies reaching Cambodia? I understand that we are giving Germany £34 million. Could not we tell the German Government that it would be helpful not to allow arms supplies to reach Cambodia, and to ensure that Thailand does not act as a transit camp for arms supplies?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I hope to be able to comment on the hon. Gentleman's intervention in a few minutes' time.
The British Government are ready, with other members of the permanent five, to talk to the supreme national council. In doing so, we shall not be talking to representatives of the four Cambodian parties. In accordance with the framework of the permanent five, the council is composedof representative individuals with authority among the Cambodian people and reflecting all shades of opinion among them.The members of the supreme national council are also, in terms of the framework, acceptable to one another. Our attitude to the two rival Cambodian Governments, to use the words of the framework, will remain the same. In recognising Cambodia as a state, we shall not have dealings with the regime in Phnom Penh or the National 689 Government of Cambodia. In the meantime, we shall continue to maintain informal contact with the two non-Communist partners in the resistance coalition.
In response to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), I say that we have no objections to talking to representatives in Phnom Penh to urge them to co-operate in restoring peace to Cambodia on the basis of the framework of the permanent five.
Hon. Members will note from what I have just said that I have most clearly refrained from talking of any contact with the Khmer Rouge. As they will have guessed, that is no omission. I make it clear once again—my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have done this repeatedly in the pas—tthat we abhor the Khmer Rouge and all for which it stands. On 13 November 1989, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) referred to Pol. Pot as the worst example of his kind since Hitler. I am more than happy to associate myself with those words. Our aim over many years has been to prevent a return to the atrocities of the Pol Pot years.
§ Mr. Mullin
Perhaps I might steer the Minister away from his brief for a moment. Flow does he think that the Khmer Rouge has survived in Thailand with all the facilities that I described in my speech if no one was supporting it? He may argue that the villain is China, but China has no contiguous border with Cambodia. How has it happened? The Khmer Rouge was in a hell of a mess in 1980 and now it is stronger than it has ever been. Does the Minister know of any time when we have made any protest, public or private, to the Government of Thailand for their harbouring of the Khmer Rouge? Can he draw my attention, and the attention of the House generally, to any occasion when we have condemned Thailand for harbouring those who he says are terrible and wicked?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman knows that the Chinese have been supplying the Khmer Rouge for many years. I am not in a position to say how it comes to be in this position of strength, although I shall deal with my responsibility for British policy in due course.
I am informed that we have regular contacts with all the countries most interested in the situation in Cambodia, including China, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam—the principal backer of the four Cambodian parties—and that we confer with our European Community colleagues and take every opportunity to urge an end to all outside supplies. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South looks doubtful; if he wants to write to Lord Caithness or me on this specific point, I believe that I can obtain a detailed answer.
§ Mr. Mullin
I have had a lot of experience of writing to Lord Caithness and his predecessors and to the Minister's many predecessors, none of whom ever seems to hold his brief for more than about six months.
Again, I ask the Minister: can he draw our attention to any time when we have publicly criticised those who are openly harbouring Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? Can he draw my attention to any occasion when we have criticised China—although it is not all China's fault? During the past decade, while all this has been going on under our noses and people have been drawing it to the attention of 690 the Minister and his colleagues, when have we ever had anything public to say about it? I do not think that the Minister can name any such occasion.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not have specific responsibility for Cambodia, but I think it would be appropriate if I wrote a letter to the hon. Gentleman about that, which I undertake to do——
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
The Minister said that he was going to come on to the issues that were the subject of Government responsibility. That means that he has only covered the background so far, but part of that background has concerned the role of the Security Council, with which we are connected. Certainly we have to negotiate on it and we cannot dominate it, but we do contribute to its activities, and we are also connected with what has been happening in Thailand, China and the other countries that have been discussed—and that is where our sins of omission come in.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that my analysis of the divide between his views and those of the Government is as follows: given that the United Nations Security Council—the permanent five—the General Assembly and all the other parties in the conflict, accept the proposal under the framework of the permanent five, the Government believe that we should push in that direction. The hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, is making comments which would only tend to undermine that framework, which has been accepted by all the relevant parties. I accept the integrity of any remarks that he may like to make about the atrocities of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, but we feel that if there is to be an end to the fighting and a prospect of peace for the unhappy people who have suffered so much, we must push in the direction that I have just described.
Our concern is to prevent a return to the atrocities of the past. We shall continue to work hard to ensure that those horrors can never be repeated. If a way could be found to bring Pol Pot and his cronies to justice for their crimes against the Cambodian people, we would certainly be the last to object. However, hon. Members should not live in a dream world. They must remember that there are formidable legal and practical problems, which I shall describe.
Under the auspices of the United Nations, a tribunal could be established. However, it would require the agreement of a majority of United Nations members, and a legitimate Government in Cambodia would have to accept its jurisdiction before it could hear cases relating to Cambodia under the genocide convention. Alternatively, Pol Pot and others could be brought to trial under the genocide convention, but the only courts with jurisdiction under that convention would be Cambodian courts. We have been accused of giving nothing more than pious support to the proposition to bring Pol Pot to justice, but however desirable the objective, we have to be realistic about the likelihood of its implementation.
I shall now reply to the specific matters raised by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. Perhaps he would refrain from intervening until I have finished each passage in my speech. At that point, I shall accept his interventions should he wish to make any. As has been said, it is 691 ridiculous for hon. Members and others to suggest that we support the Khmer Rouge. There is no foundation whatever to those allegations. We do not sustain terrorism or terrorists, and we have never given and will never give support of any kind to the Khmer Rouge.
I was asked about the two people that my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe and the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) met in Phnom Penh in September 1989. I shall give a few simple facts. Those two men did not visit Indochina at our behest or as representatives of the Government. They went privately, at the invitation of the Institute for International Relations in Hanoi. The Government have already said that. Through the institute, they were introduced to the Phnom Penh authorities. Those authorities then invited them to witness the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia before travelling to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to fulfil their engagements for the institute. It must be up to the two men themselves, as private individuals, to respond if they so wish. As hon. Members are aware, they have taken out writs for libel. I am more than happy now to give way to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South.
§ Mr. Mullin
It is nonsense to say that they were invited by the Hanoi Institute for International Relations. That is manifestly not true. I have here letters from which it is clear that they made contact themselves, and I would be happy to make those letters public. They are not suing me for libel because I am entirely confident about what I have said and would be happy to repeat it outside this place. I am not bothered about those two people and we must not allow ourselves to become distracted by them.
I was disappointed by the brevity—about two or three sentences—of the Minister's reply in relation to military training. If that is all that he has to say on the subject, he has repeated, as I predicted he would, the line about how the Government do not in any way support the Khmer Rouge. The point on which I seek the Minister's clarification is: we have been training Khmer terrorists, have we not? We have been training persons of Cambodian nationality to plant mines, blow up bridges and do all sorts of unpleasant things in Cambodia and British service men have been there doing that, have they not? That is the point that I want the Minister to address. Will he now do so?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The Government never sustain, succour or support terrorists and terrorism. As to questions which the hon. Gentleman raised about the special forces or their activities, he will have heard before that it is the practice of all Governments—previous Governments over the years—to make no comment on those matters. The words that I have used are perhaps hallowed by time, but they are the words that I shall stand by.
However, I shall add just one further point of a personal nature. Whether the hon. Gentleman accepts the Government's explanations, which I have happily repeated today, is, of course, a matter for him. As I said, I respect his integrity and his determination. But he must at least accept this from me: I have obviously prepared this speech and commented on briefings given to me, and I 692 have to say that I am personally completely satisfied that the explanations that I have been given are comprehensive and accurate.
§ Mr. Mullin
I am grateful to the Minister, but I want him to share with the House the explanations that he has been given. One cannot hope to have one's general denials believed if one is unwilling to address these specific points. I shall repeat them. There have been British service men, have there not, based on the Thai-Cambodian border training Khmer terrorists? That has used British taxpayers' money. British service men have been doing a task which I understand many of them find distasteful, and we are all anxious that that task should be stopped.
I understand that the unofficial official position, to which I referred in my speech, is that, shortly before the House debated this issue on 13 November, all those activities were privatised—they were put out to tender to some sort of phoney organisation containing a number of military people who were recently associated with Her Majesty's forces. The operation was supervised by Mr. Dennis Gallwey, based in the British embassy in Bangkok until October last year. I invite the Minister to deny that, to say that I am making it all up and that it is all fantasy. If he cannot do that, he must expect people to be a mite sceptical about all these generalised denials.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I have already paid tribute to the hon. Gentleman's persistence and I have no doubt that I shall have good opportunity to pay tribute to his persistence in the future in due course, but I cannot say more than I have said.
I have referred briefly to one other point in the speech by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South, but I should like to add to my comments. At the beginning of his speech, he basically accused the British Government of being poodles of the United States and of United States foreign policy. Let me just ask the hon. Gentleman—rhetorically, of course—a few questions. Does he think that we are poodles of United States policy when it comes to the Vietnamese boat people? I can assure him that we are not. Clearly that is a matter of great contention between Britain and the United States, and it is of great importance in south-east Asia as well.
As to following United States policy in Cambodia, in July 1990 the United States brought their policy into line with ours. We had already been talking to Vietnam and had had normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam since 1975. We were already permitting British nongovernmental organisations to work inside Cambodia, and we were already funding those NGO activities inside Cambodia. Furthermore, we do not—and never did—operate a trade embargo against Cambodia, whereas the United States continues to do so. United Kingdom companies have been and are free to do business there if they wish.
I must place it clearly on record that the British Government, of course, utterly and clearly refute the allegations made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, South and by Mr. Pilger in his programme.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. The Minister has been generous in giving way. I remind the hon. Gentleman that he has had a good run today. Interventions should be very brief.
§ Mr. Mullin
It is the Minister's misfortune to have ended up not with a half-hour Adjournment debate, but with a three or four-hour debate, in which he has been able to be questioned a mite more rigorously than he might have expected. That must be in the public interest.
The Minister asked whether I thought that we had been poodles of the United States in relation to the policy on the boat people. No, it is one of the few areas in which we have tweaked the noses of our masters in Washington. The reason is that many of the boat people ended up in Hong Kong and put our administration there under intolerable pressure. The United States then adopted the entirely ludicrous policy—as even Mr. Colvin would agree—of opposing our returning the boat people, while at the same time being unwilling to do anything about them. That is why we have departed from the United States on that minor aspect of policy. There are not many others.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I was, perhaps, unwise to make that sally, as it has extended the debate into a different area. I shall now come back to the matter in question.
The real thrust of the debate should be to support the international efforts to bring an end to the suffering of the Cambodian people and to work towards a comprehensive political settlement to enable all Cambodians to resume their lives free of the fear of Khmer Rouge atrocities, of civil war and of outside aggression. That goes hand in hand with an international commitment to alleviate the humanitarian plight in which the Cambodian people now find themselves.
The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) expressed his interest in those aspects. However, I must refute what he said. Our own humanitarian aid programme is designed to help all Cambodians, and it is proving successful. Over the past 10 months, we have spent or committed almost £2 million for humanitarian relief in Cambodia, and we are likely to commit more funds in the coming months. That is in addition to almost £15 million which we have provided since 1979 in humanitarian assistance for the inhabitants of camps along the Thai-Cambodian border.
§ Mr. Cryer
I appreciate the Minister's helpfulness in giving way. Does he accept that the aid is small in terms of overseas aid generally? Is not it mean-minded to make an artificial distinction between a water supply project for Phnom Penh, from which the people there would benefit and a similar project for rural districts? Will he urge his colleagues in the Overseas Development Administration to look again at that project from which so many people in Phnom Penh would benefit?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman has not got all his facts quite right. He should refer to Hansard of 22 October at column 23.
Outlined there are rural water supply activities to which the hon. Gentleman did not draw attention—particularly 694 our contribution via the multilateral agencies working in Cambodia. Under the United Nations Children's Fund funding arrangements for health, water, nutrition, sanitation and education, the hon. Gentleman will see listed three sums that amount in all to £1 million over three years. The hon. Gentleman does not have all his facts right.
Le me go into a little more detail. Since the start of this year, we have committed £565,000 in support of 12 humanitarian assistance projects proposed by British non-governmental organisations. We are considering a number of other non-governmental organisations' projects and we expect to receive more applications. In addition, we have allocated £1.25 million to support programmes in Cambodia carried out by the United Nations Children's Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation. They include the provision of safe water supplies, food-for-work work schemes, primary health care, education and assistance for agricultural development.
Two British aid officials paid a second visit to Cambodia between 31 August and 6 September to review the progress of non-governmental organisation projects already under way and to assess the need for further humanitarian assistance. Cambodians displaced within Cambodia by the civil war are in particularly urgent need of assistance. In response to that, the Overseas Development Administration announced on 8 October that it would make up to £100,000 available for work by the British non-governmental organisations to assist those people.
That is not our only financial commitment to Cambodia. With other members of the international community, and in the context of a comprehensive political settlement, we shall be ready to consider Cambodia's long-term reconstruction and development needs. The United Nations development programme has already allocated more than $41 million to Cambodia for the five-year period from 1992, in addition to the work of other United Nations agencies' activities in Cambodia.
Most significantly, however, we shall make a substantial contribution to the cost of implementing a comprehensive political settlement—the foundation on which the country's future must be built. That cost will certainly run into many millions of pounds. We do not enter into such commitments lightly and the fact that we are prepared to do so should be seen as a measure of our conviction that current efforts to achieve a comprehensive political settlement represent the best, and perhaps the last, chance for Cambodia's political leaders to secure a future for their people and their country. That is why we call on them to act constructively with the nations of the world in the interests of all those whom they claim to represent, to restore peace and stability to Cambodia. If they do that, Cambodia's friends worldwide will respond eagerly and willingly.