On the second day of our two-week journey through Cambodia, Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post-dispatch and I were promised a joint interview with Pol Pot, the prime minister of Cambodia and leader of the Cambodian Communist Party. It would be the first interview he granted to non-Communist American journists.
We were told to submit our questions in writing. I prepared several, ranging from the validity of charges by Cambodian refugees of summary executions and forced labor by the government to Pol Pot's view of U.S.-Cambodian relations.
We submitted our questions, and nothing happened. We toured the countryside for several days and when we returned to the capital, Phnom Penh, we discovered that no one knew if we would actually see Pol Pot.
"He is very busy," it was explained.
Finally, at 2 p.m. the day before we were to leave Cambodia, an official came to our rooms and informed us that the prime minister would see us in 15 minutes. We were taken to the former French governor-general's residence, where Pol Pot was waiting, along with Ieng Sary, the deputy prime minister.
Instead of answering the questions we had submitted, Pol Pot launched into a polemic about Vietnam's threat to his country. Ninety minutes later, when the polemic was finished, so was the interview.
The interpreter told us that written answers to our questions would be given us the next day.
These were Pol Pot's views on some of the chief topics covered:
U.S.-Cambodian relations-"Our Constitution has underlined that we establish relations with all countries . . . based on the principles of peaceful coexistence . . . Kampuchea's people and [government] do not take into consideration the old account, but only the present and the future. They need peace and time to restore their economy, to improve their standard of living and to rapidly build up their country after the war . . . The American people, especially the American youth, students and progressive political personages who have given support to us, such as the students of Kent State and Jackson State Universities . . . are the bridge tying the Kampuchean people and the American people together."
Foreign aid-"In national defense and construction, we abide by the position of being independent, sovereign and self-reliant, mobilizing our own efforts to defend and build up our country. We accept all unconditional foreign aid that is useful for our tasks."
Charge by refugees-The government of Cambodia has "denounced and unmaked through concrete evidence those who have created these slanders and stories. The latter are the ones who used to be the slaughterers of Kampuchea's people in the past and at present."
Cambodian-Vietnamese hostilities - "The Kampuchea-Vietnam conflict is not an ordinary border conflict. It is the carrying out of the strategy of Vietnam for its 'Indochina Federation' and of the Soviet strategy in Southeast Asia, Asia and the world . . . Absolutely we refuse to be the satellite of Vietnam . . . Vietnam has had the ambition to swallow Kampuchea for a long time . . . At the end of 1977, Vietnam launched a large-scale attack of invasion and aggression against Kampuchea . . . but it could bot succeed in achieving its strategy . . . We attack to prevent them from penetrating into some parts of our territory. But, if they succeed in penetrating into some parts of Kampuchea's territory, they would face many difficulties in getting out."
U.S.%-CHINESE RELATIONS-"NORMAL AND GOOD RELATIONS BETWEEN THESE TWO COUNTRIES WILL HAVE FAVORABLE RESULTS FOR CHINA, THE U.S.A. and the world. [We] wish these relations be kept normal and have favorable results for the defense of peace and national independence agaist all kinds of acts of aggression and expansion." CAPTION: Picture, Pol Pot gave written answers to written questions. By Elizabeth Becker-The Washington Post