Volume #20 - 784.|
INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR SUPERVISION AND CONTROL FOR CAMBODIA
Commissioner, International Supervisory Commission for Cambodia,|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
October 27th, 1954|
A REVIEW OF THE WORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL SUPERVISORY COMMISSION |
FOR CAMBODIA FROM ITS INCEPTION UNTIL 20 OCTOBER 1954
Now that the Commission has entered a more static phase of its existence, I think it may be helpful to the Department if I attempt a summary of its activities up to the final evacuation of Vietnamese troops on October 18 and the consequent dissolution of the Joint Commission on October 20, 1954. It is not my intention to give a play-by-play account of those activities but to describe in broad outline the difficulties and achievements of the Commission during the period in question. My thought is that such a report may constitute a useful résumé of this period for those officers in the Department who are particularly concerned with Indo-China. It will also provide a background against which to assess the further tasks of the Commission and their chances of successful completion.
The Early Phases: 11 August to 5 September
2. Not much was sent to Ottawa during this first month as very little of the work of the Commission was put on record, although it was during that period that the ground-work was done. As you know, there had to be a good deal of improvisation in those early days, and there was neither personnel nor machinery for the preparation of reports. For the Canadians, Brigadier, now Major-General, Morton, and later Mr. T.F.G. Fletcher did an excellent job of work in getting the Canadian Delegation housed, fed and working. The Commission held its inaugural meeting on 11 August and in its first few sessions adopted rules of procedure, made itself known to the Cambodian authorities, set up a central headquarters, decided on the sites for fixed and mobile teams, settled the order of priority for sending these teams out, drew up standing orders for them, and established liaison with the Joint Commission which had started its work at Svay Rieng on 20 August.
Later Phase: 7 September to 22 October
3. It was not until the 11th meeting of the International Commission, held on 7 September 1954, that the permanent Chairman, Mr. G. Parthasarathi, and the Polish Commissioner, Mr. Wiktor Grosz, took up their appointments. On 5 September, Mr. R. Duder, replaced Mr. Fletcher and remained head of the Canadian Delegation until the arrival of Mr. R.M. Macdonnell on 14 October.
4. The Commission, having paid official calls on the King and his chief ministers, at once got down to the business of supervising the release of prisoners-of-war and civilian internees. This task was tackled at several meetings of the Commission and at further meetings between it and the Joint Commission. These latter meetings took place at Banam, half-way between Phnom Penh, where the International Commission had its headquarters, and Svay Rieng, where the Joint Commission had theirs. I think it fair to say that the International Commission was able to expedite matters by resolving differences between the Royal Cambodian Delegation on the one side, and the Delegation of the Vietnamese Military Units and Khmer Resistance Forces on the other, and by exerting tactful pressure on both sides to get on with the business in hand.
5. The first release actually took place at Suong on 11 September and the Commissioners were present to see that everything was properly done. At later releases, the Commission was represented by the fixed or mobile team of the district concerned, the Commissioners presiding over the final release at Kompong Cham on 23 September when some 337 civilian internees were set free. On the whole, the operation went smoothly and last-minute differences of opinion were settled by the Commission on the spot. A press release on the liberation of prisoners-of-war and civilian internees was later issued by the Commission. Nothing now remains of this phase of the Commission's work except a few complaints from both sides that not all prisoner-of-war and not all civilian internees had been released. These complaints are being investigated.
Withdrawal of Foreign Armed Forces and Foreign Military Personnel
6. The withdrawal of French military personnel had been largely carried out before the Commission had begun its activities. Apart from the French military mission and a number of French military and naval instructors, there are now no French forces in Cambodia. The main problem in this field concerned the Vietnamese Military Units. In a series of meetings with the Joint Commission, the International Commission was able to iron out differences between the Royal Cambodian Army Delegation and the other side. Finally a workable plan was achieved which called for the aid of 1 French LCT and 2 LCMs. This plan was put into operation on 12 October when approximately 500 Vietnamese troops were evacuated down the Mekong River from Neak Luong to South Vietnam. On 15 October a further group of 834 and on 18 October a final group of 1,050 were withdrawn. With each group the International Commission sent a team of its officers who remained on board the transports up to the Cambodian border. The Commissioners were present at each evacuation and their presence was clearly welcome to both sides. I think it was also useful in preventing any last-minute hitches since each side could appeal to the Commission and, by accepting the Commission's decision, save face - an important consideration in the Far East.
7. The total number involved in the withdrawal is suspiciously small. The Royal Cambodian Government has expressed to the International Commission its grave concern over this and its intention of investigating on its own to establish whether there are armed Vietnamese and Khmer Resistance Forces still in the Kingdom. I think it more than likely that there have been clandestine withdrawals of Vietnamese troops and of Cambodian resistants together with their arms and supplies. Nevertheless, the Cambodian Government cannot but welcome the clearing of its territory, in spite of its justifiable fear that some of the men secretly withdrawn may return to sow discontent and dissension.
Fixed and Mobile Teams
8. These tripartite teams have been stationed at strategic centres throughout the country. There are 5 fixed teams with 6 officers each at Svay Rieng, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kratie and Phnom Penh. There are three mobile teams, two at Battambang, one at Kompong Chhnang and a fourth which is to be sent, against the Canadian Delegation's judgment, to Stung Treng early in November. The teams are visited at regular intervals by a liaison mission from the International Commission's Headquarters and the team-members occasionally come to Phnom Penh. In these ways, the International Commission has been kept informed of what goes on in the provinces. Until the dissolution of the Joint Commission on 20 October, the teams were in liaison with the Joint Groups which represented that Commission in various places throughout the country. They supervised in some places the liberation of prisoners-of-war and civilian internees, and the withdrawal of Vietnamese Military Units from the districts where they operate. They have undertaken on-the-spot investigations at the request of the Commission and serve generally as the eyes and ears of the Commission throughout Cambodia.
Relations Between the International Commission and the Royal Government
9. Relations between the Cambodian Government and the Commission have been correct but not exactly cordial. It has to be remembered that Cambodia has not been independent for very long and its Government is understandably somewhat touchy about its new-found dignity. Moreover, they are, according to my information, extremely suspicious of the Poles and it must, I fear, be admitted that the Polish Commissioner has gone out of his way to be critical of them and ostentatiously friendly to the Vietnamese and Khmer Resistants. I have reported in earlier communications the difficulties which arose between the Government and the Commission over certain official communiqués, both theirs and ours, and the reasonably satisfactory solution of these differences. The Cambodian Government felt the International Commission was more or less thrust upon them at Geneva. They believed they could handle the aftermath of war without assistance. Their resentful attitude towards the rumoured claims of the Commission to supervise the elections is but one example of their somewhat stiffnecked attitude. I should, however, add that the personal relations of the Canadian Delegation with the various ministers have always been friendly and, as far as I can judge, not merely as a result of the innate politeness of the Cambodians who are, by and large, a charming and friendly race.
10. In fairness, it should also be said that the ministers have nearly always answered the Commission's requests for information promptly and fully. This is particularly true of the request which the Commission made to the Minister of National Defence concerning the planned extension of the armed forces under Articles 7 and 13 (c) of the Geneva Agreement. 34 The Government have also made it possible for our teams in the field to move freely and to make whatever enquiries they have thought fit. I have made several attempts to get them to see more of the Commission in Phnom Penh on an informal basis but so far with no great success. I should add that the Colombo Conference and the quadripartite conference in Paris have taken many of their top men and resulted in a great overburdening of those ministers who remained in the capital. Some ministers have as many as three or four portfolios.
Relations with the Vietnamese Military Units and Khmer Resistance Forces
11. Relations with the Vietnamese leaders and the leaders of the Khmer Resistance Forces have been largely confined to the meetings at Banam between the Joint Commission and the International Commission. All these Communists have been excessively polite and deferential, not to say flattering. They have gone out of their way to visit the Commissioners privately, both individually and as a trio; I have reported most of these encounters as they took place. On 8 October, the Commissioners visited the Vietnamese High Command in their jungle headquarters beyond Suong and were received with great ceremony, treated to several courses of speeches and many more of Vietnamese foods. We were prayed for, which no doubt we needed, by the local bonzes and, on leaving, presented with gifts by the Commander-in-Chief. When the Joint Commission ended its work on 20 October, the Vietnamese co-Chairman, Colonel Nguyen Thanh Son, gave a banquet in our honour in Phnom Penh, in the course of which our role as "consolidators of peace" was the subject of many fulsome speeches and innumerable toasts.
12. In earlier reports, I made brief mention of the principal ministers of the Royal Government. It may now be useful to revise those first estimates and add sketches of some of the other men with whom the Commission has had dealings:
(a) The President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Penn Nouth. M. Penn Nouth is a devoted patriot and as wily as a fox. He is extremely powerful and few decisions are taken by the various ministers without his knowledge and approval. He strikes one as highly nervous and easily roused. On such occasions his voice tends to become high and shrill and his uncommonly long fingers scratch the back of his uncommonly long neck with alarming frequency. The antagonism between him and the Polish Commissioner has been barely concealed during our few meetings. He has been most affable to the Canadians. He may become a leading man in the Democratic Party when the electoral campaign opens.
(b) The Minister for External Affairs, H.E. Tep Phan. M. Tep Phan is a charming and affable little man, very much under the thumb of Penn Nouth. He is less of a Minister than a superior civil servant, hardworking and honest, within the limits of local custom which is rather laxer than Canadian. You will remember that he was David to Mr. Molotov's Goliath in the closing hours of the Geneva Conference. Our dealings with him have been cordial but not frequent enough.
(c) The Minister of National Defence, H.E. Colonel Ngo-Hou. Colonel Ngo-Hou is also Chief of the General Staff and Minister of Public Health. He is a medical doctor by profession and, so it is said, a collector of perquisites by nature. I am told that he is closely allied to the King's mother who is a sinister influence and the foremost intriguer and grafter in the Kingdom. Colonel Ngo-Hou has been quite ready to provide the Commission with information on the planned extension of Cambodia's armed forces. One of his weaknesses, however, is the inability to delegate authority. I have heard that he is not loyal to anyone except himself. On the other hand, he is energetic and some of the foreigners here have found him helpful.
(d) Colonel Lon Nol. Colonel Lon Nol was the head of the Royal Cambodian Delegation to the Joint Commission. He has now returned to his post as Governor of the Province of Battambang and - an unusual combination for Cambodia - Commander-in-Chief of the troops there. In politics he is a leading figure in the Party of National Reconstruction but tells me that he has not yet decided whether to run for election next year. Like the Ministers described above, he speaks fluent French. He is, for a Cambodian, a large man with the broad flat face and thick lips of the race. In my opinion, he is the finest public man we have met. Open and honest, Lon Nol strikes me as one of the best hopes of this country. He has the entire confidence of the King who, by all accounts, can do with a few really reliable men around him. We hope to keep in touch with him through our teams in Battambang.
Personalities of the International Commission
13. The Chairman of the International Commission, Mr. G. Parthasarathi, has great patience, considerable acumen and undoubted charm. Like many of his compatriots, he moves at a pace which is as far removed as possible from that of the go-getter. He believes strongly in the healing influence of time and occasionally time fails to perform the curative function which he had allotted to it. As a chairman, he is not always firm enough, with the result that matters are sometimes postponed for no very cogent reason. He has, however, a good mind and is a very civilized person with great qualities of human warmth and sympathy. By profession he is a journalist. His father, now dead, was Minister of National Defence, and Mr. Parthasarathi himself is said to be a protégé of Mr. Krishna Menon and favourably known to Mr. Nehru, whose visit to Phnom Penh on Sunday, 31 October, he is busily preparing. His relations with the Canadian Delegation could hardly be better. At first he was a little uncertain of himself, since this is his first venture in the field of diplomacy, but he has steadily gained confidence and I think he may well become a prominent member of the Indian diplomatic service.
14. Major-General Sarda Nand Singh, the Indian Alternate Delegate, is a handsome and dashing soldier with a great sense of fun. He was formerly Military Secretary at the time when the Chairman's father was Minister of National Defence and Mr. Parthasarathi leans heavily on him. He is, unfortunately, very keen to get back to India and this detracts from his application to the tasks in hand. A most likeable man, Major-General Singh has at all times shown the greatest friendliness to the Canadians.
15. The Polish Commissioner, Mr. Wiktor Grosz, is an ardent and voluble Communist who has never attempted to be strictly neutral. He has gone out of his way to show his comradeship with the Vietnamese Military Units and Khmer Resistance Forces and has frequently needled the Cambodian Government. It has sometimes taken all the persuasive power of the Chairman and the Canadian Commissioner to prevent him from committing acts which, in their opinion, might have completely alienated the Government. Mr. Grosz is affable and approachable, and has been an excellent companion on the various journeys of the Commission. He is an admirable linguist and a shrewd negotiator. His relations with the Canadian Delegation have been cordial within the limits inseparable from the relationship between an avowed Communist and representatives of Canadian democracy. Possessed of unusual mental and physical energy, he has surrounded himself with a large team and shows no sign of wanting to reduce the Commission's numbers. It is a mystery to us, and to the Cambodians, what all his minions find to do but it seems clear that they intend to keep a close watch on the activities of the Cambodian Government, both in the capital and in the provinces. Mr. Grosz was the senior "political" general of the Polish Army, a former ambassador to Czechoslovakia and in, I think, 1945 Head of the Polish Military Mission to the United Kingdom. It seems at first sight somewhat puzzling that so experienced and senior a man should have been sent to the least complex and most peaceful of the three states of Indo-China. The answer to the puzzle may well be that in Cambodia the Communists lost and had to leave the country, whereas in VietNam their success was great. To help as far as possible to redress the balance and to prepare the way for future Communist infiltrations and possible eventual victorious return, an able and senior Communist with great experience in the Communist underground was chosen as Polish Commissioner. This interpretation may link up with the quite unnecessarily large number of Poles who are now in Cambodia and to whom fresh arrivals are added every week. On some days in my hotel there are as many Poles in the dining room as there are Canadians in the whole of Cambodia. It should never be forgotten that the Communists are trained to take the long view, no matter what the immediate task in hand may be. We, on the other hand, have come here to do a limited and fairly clearly defined job of work and then to return to our country. Left to itself with Laos and VietNam as neighbours, this little kingdom will be in no enviable position over the next ten or fifteen years. Although it is perhaps neither relevant to this despatch nor to the task of the Canadian Delegation, I venture to hope that we are giving some thought in the Department to ways and means of helping the Cambodians to remain anti-Communist. As an independent country Cambodia is a newcomer to the international scene and will both need friends and be grateful to them.
Relations with the Diplomatic Corps
16. The Canadian Delegation has been in friendly contact with the newly-arrived American Ambassador, Mr. McClintock, and the newly-arrived British Ambassador, Mr. Heppel, as well as with the Thai and Japanese Ministers. We have not pushed these contacts very far as yet in view of our instructions and the neutral nature of the Commission. With the French High Commissioner, Mr. Gorce, we have had formal contact which he has not attempted to pursue. At the time of the withdrawal of the Vietnamese Military Units, we saw something of Colonel Des Essars, head of the French Military Mission, with whom our dealings were friendly and fruitful.
The Canadian Delegation
17. The Canadian Delegation now has a headquarters in which all members of the headquarters staff work. Living accommodation is in hotels. Health has been, on the whole, good. There have been no serious problems and the team is working well.
The Task Ahead
18. The International Commission has now entered a more static phase of its operations. With the exception of keeping a watch on the entry of war material in the light of the Cambodian Declaration on this matter, dealing with petitions and complaints and considering the problems of integration and the elections, the Commission has carried out according to schedule the main tasks set forth in the Geneva Agreement. The Canadian Delegation has already begun to consider possible reductions of the strength of the Delegation. Unfortunately, the Polish Delegation has been increasing steadily and insisting on putting out more teams. We are studying the implications of this development, which strikes us as ill-timed and likely to arouse the suspicion and anger of the Cambodian Government. The Chairman of the Commission is also worried about this matter.
19. It is, I think, fair to say that the International Commission has dealt on the whole successfully with the problems that faced it from its arrival until the dissolution of the Joint Commission on 20 October. It has exercised a moderating and stabilizing influence on the post-hostilities period. There is no reason to doubt that it will continue to exert this influence during the remainder of its sojourn in the Kingdom of Cambodia.