The Washington Post reported incorrectly yesterday that the International Red Cross and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will jointly administer a food aid program in Cambodia. In fact, the program will be run by the Red Cross and UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund.
A senior American official predicted yesterday that 3.5 million Cambodians face "severe malnutrition or starvation in the upcoming months," even though the Vietnamese-dominated government in Phnom Penh finally has agreed to allow an internation relief effort in Cambodia.
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke indicated to a Senate hearing that U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, the United States, France, Japan and other countries had applied intense diplomatic pressure on the Hanoi government in recent days to get its agreement for the relief effort, which will be run by the International Red Cross and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, Holbrooke revealed new intelligence information about the continuing war in Cambodia, including the whereabouts of Pol Pot, leader of the regime that has now been replaced by a government of Hanoi's choosing that is led by Heng Samrin. Holbrooke said a new Vietnamese offensive to wipe out Pol Pot and his supporters is just beginning and will create "the most dangerous threat to the stability of Asia that we have seen in a long time."
The Heng Samrin government's willingness to permit Red Cross and UNESCO officals to come to Phnom Penh and organize famine relief was announced Wednesday night in Geneva.
"We've been trying for months to get this meager achievement," Holbrooke said yesterday. The new agreement is "of uncertain value," he added, "but [it is] a long overdue step in the right direction."
U.S. officals have long been exasperated with Hanoi's refusal to deal with a human crisis in Cambodia without trying to gain some political advantage at the same time. Secifically, the Americans charge. Hanoi has sought to require other countries to recognize the government it has installed in Phnom Enh under Heng Samrin before allowing them to send food aid to Cambodia's already decimated and still-suffering population.
"Scores of thousands of Khmer [Cambodian] civilian are ranging across much of Kampuchea [Cambodian] foraging for food," Holbrooke testified. These conditions are harshest on the old and the very young. Holbrooke said, nothing that visitors to Vietnamese-controlled sections of Cambodia had remarked on the absence of infants there. "A generation of Khmer may already have been lost," Holbrooke said.
He predicted that the new Vietnamese dry-season offensive against Pol Pot and his supporters would send another 200,000 or more Cambodian refugees fleeing into neighboring Thailand. Holbrooke said the Tais were better prepared than before to deal with this "onslaught."
But he expressed fear that the fighting could spread into Thailand, with unforeseeable consequences. Pol Pot's headquarters are located in the Cardamon Mountains next to Thailand, Holbrooke said.
Holbrooke said massive Soviet aid to vietnam enables Hanoi to maintain a force of nearly 200,000 troops in Cambodia. They are fighting a force of 20,000 to 30,000 loyal to Pol Pot, he testified.
The Soviets are spending "as much as $2 million a day in Vietnam," Holbrooke said, and are providing a full range of military equipment, oil and other commodities. "It's already become several times as great as it was last year," Holbrooke said, describing the Soviet aid program.
Robert B. Oakley, a deputy to Holbrooke, testified that events in Cambodia in recent years are "equivalent in their horror to the Holocaust" in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis in World War II. In response to questions from Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), Oakley did not dispute that the Vietnamese have been using starvation as a weapon to achieve their goals in Cambodia.
Glenn recommeded taht the United States call for an interantional conference that would investigate the famine in Cambodia as a means of drawing attention to it and perhaps shaming the Vietnamese into doing something about it. Holbrooke replied to this suggestion by asking, "suppose you gave a conference and nobody came?" The Vietnamese and China probably would not take part, Holbrooke suggested.
Holbrooke held out no hope that the Cambodian conflict would soon end. He predicted that Pol Pot and at least some of his followers would survive this dry season offensive by the Vietnamese and live to fight again.