The Cambodian regime has warned the United States against sympathizing with the nation’s ousted co-premier, saying to do so would be akin to aligning itself with the Khmer Rouge.
In a five-page letter to President Clinton seen Sunday, Cambodian leader Hun Sen and his recently appointed co-premier, Ung Huot, said Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his supporters long have received financial, political and military support from the outlawed guerrilla group.
“The United States government cannot … continue to support, against U.S. laws, a group of expatriate Cambodians who are known to have had a long association with the Khmer Rouge,” the two leaders wrote in their letter dated Thursday.
They called Ranariddh and his allies the “more human face” of the Khmer Rouge and accused them of encouraging the tension that led to Hun Sen’s bloody July coup.
Ranariddh was smuggling weapons into Phnom Penh in the weeks before the fighting and was plotting his own takeover, according to the letter.
The Khmer Rouge, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, was responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million Cambodians during its 1975-79 reign. Afterward, the guerrillas continued to fight the government from Cambodia’s northern and northwestern provinces.
Since the July coup, resistance forces loyal to the deposed prince have formed a loose alliance with Khmer Rouge hard-liners.
The U.S. government has criticized Hun Sen’s violent takeover and has cut off $25 million in aid projects.
Decisions to punish the Phnom Penh government, Hun Sen and Ung Huot wrote, indirectly would help the Khmer Rouge and bring further tragedy to the Cambodian people.
“We deeply regret the recent decision of the U.S. Congress to suspend U.S. aid to Cambodia for fiscal year 1998,” they wrote.
“We are sure that the Khmer Rouge are the only ones to be happy about it and to welcome it.”