Thai Foreign Minister Siddhi Savetsila said yesterday that his government is "quite pleased" that the United States may provide the first direct and open aid to the noncommunist resistance fighting the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.
In February, Thailand and the other noncommunist countries in Southeast Asia called for foreign powers to step up aid, including military aid, to the resistance groups. In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to authorize $5 million in military and economic aid to the two noncommunist resistance groups. Last week the Senate passed a similar amendment.
Asked about prospects of the resistance groups receiving the aid, Siddhi said, "I met your administration and they have no objection." He met yesterday with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and earlier this week with other senior administration officials.
Until now, open U.S. aid to the Cambodian resistance has been solely humanitarian, furnished indirectly through international border-relief agencies along the Thai-Cambodian border.
The purpose of the aid "is not to get the United States involved in a Kampuchean syndrome," Siddhi said. But any direct aid from the United States lends credibility to Thailand and the other noncommunist countries who support the two resistance groups led by former Cambodian prime minister Son Sann and former Cambodian chief of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk, and will encourage other countries to follow suit, he said.
The two groups are in an uneasy coalition with the communist Khmer Rouge fighting about 160,000 to 180,000 Vietnamese troops in Cambodia. Siddhi, an Air Force general who formerly served as national security adviser to the prime minister, said the noncommunist resistance forces are growing in strength and are expected to increase from their current force of 30,000 to 40,000 before the end of next year.
The foreign minister also said Thailand will cooperate with the United States to help process some individual cases from among those Cambodians who were recently driven into Thailand by Vietnamese military action. Approximately 230,000 are living in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border and the United States has said they are ineligible for resettlement.
But Reps. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa) have said that some Cambodians living in these border camps have relatives in the United States and are eligible for resettlement. Siddhi acknowledged that there are "special cases" and said his government would consider the request of "any country that can identify these cases."