Before continuing the prepared text I think it is an opportune moment to clarify some of the facts at this moment concerning the establishment of the Supreme National Council for Cambodia. I think this is important for the younger generation or those historians and researchers to know of the origin of the SNC. I have here with us a close friend or I may consider him a brother of mine – HE Igor Rogatchev who may have witnessed most of the situation. He was in Cambodia in 1979 at the time when Phnom Penh had about 3000 population. A Vietnamese military helicopter took him to Phnom Penh and as a Foreign Minister then 27 years old, I hosted him. He was the one who ordered then Soviet Ambassador to Cambodia – HE Khamidulin to France to help cover the hotel cost for us. The former Soviet Union sent Cambodia a special plane for flying me to negotiations in Jakarta.
The negotiation at that stage had been very dangerous because it was at the time of serious confrontation of ideology, and only a word of revisionism would result in death to me. It was not a period of reform yet. We did what we had to for this country and if I were to have another life, I would not go away from this country but wow to be a Cambodian again. It recalled me about our hard lives in those days – especially all of my colleagues and secretaries because we then had no computers but typewriters. We had heaps of papers to carry through. Later some of them had become members of the Supreme National Council. Despite the fact that there were tremendous difficulties to do we finally achieved a unified country which had never existed in the past 500 years. Since 1470, Cambodia has been in deed ruled in division of not less than two parts.
Well now let me come to the SNC. There have been different versions in the way people write about it. From where did SNC come? First of all, representing the State of Cambodia I put forward a suggestion to set up a National Reconciliation Council for Cambodia (NRCC) in the first JIM (Jakarta Informal Meeting – I) in Bogor on July 25-26, 1988. On July 27, 1988, there was this secret meeting between Hun Sen and Chaovalit Yongchayut who was then the Thai military commander in Vientiane, with help in arrangement was rendered by HE Sisawat Keobunphan, former Prime Minister of Laos. The meeting took place after the proposal for NRCC formulation was rejected in JIM-I. We then sought the Thai assistance in lobbying the tripartite coalition to support the idea of establishing such a council.
We also propose the formula to the third meeting between Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen, and the first meeting of Shihanouk – Hun Sen – Son San on November 6 – 8, 1988. This was how it went about. I added further in those meeting to have a President and three Deputy Presidents but it was again rejected. After the failure of the first Paris Conference, with constant efforts for the establishment of such a council and later with helps given by HE Chaovalit, HE Chatichai Chunhavan, then Prime Minister of Thailand, and others, we came to a Bangkok Declaration on February 21, 1990. One should not forget that it was indeed the declaration to establish the SNC itself. I communicated from Bangkok to Sisophon to launch military attack and occupy Svay Chek by 3:30 so as to help me in my negotiation with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. It was fighting and negotiating at the same time. A little before 3:00 we had the news that we occupied Svay Chek.
There followed a closed meeting between me and Chaovalit and then another one between Hun Sen – Chaovalit – Imagawa of Japan who was then the Minister Councilor of Japan’s Embassy to Bangkok. On May 4 – 6, 1990 there was this meeting in Tokyo in which Samdech Sihanouk and I, in the presence of Chaovalit Yungchayut and the Foreign Minister of Japan, on the declaration. Son Sen and Khiev Samphan did not join the event. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was the head of the coalition of tripartite and I headed the Phnom Penh Government, but it was not yet applicable. We needed to convene another meeting coordinated by Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan and it was in that meeting that there came out these formulas of 6 + 6 = 12 or 6 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 12. This is the point to be well remembered and one should not always mix that up with just the United Nations. I do not deny the role played by the United Nations but certain things have been contributed by the Cambodian intellect.
At the informal meeting in Jakarta on September 9 and 10, we already had a framework paper from the United Nations. We then moved to the composition issue of the SNC. I wish to tell some more about this. The SoC at that time put out its composition of six members – Hun Sen, Tia Banh, Hor Namhong, Kong Sam Ol, Chem Snguon, and Sin Song, which eventually HE Chem Sguong, Kong Sam Ol and Sin Song were replaced by HE Dit Munti, Im Chhun Lim and Sin Sen. The Son San faction proposed their members of Son San and Ieng Moly, the Democratic Kampuchea proposed Khieu Samphan and Son Sen, whereas the Funcinpec faction proposed its members to be Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Prince Ranaridh. I opposed the candidacy of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk because he was not present at the meeting due to sickness in Beijing. I could not accept it because what would happen if Preah Norodom Sihanouk did not approve the meeting’s outcome. It was because of this that the first list of the 12 members of SNC did not include Preah Norodom Sihanouk. Samdech Chaosen Kosal was named later in replacement of Preah Noroddom Sihanouk. This is history. However, we have come to an agreement to have a place possible for the thirteenth person if the SNC feels in need for the President.
The first meeting of SNC from September 17 to 21, 1990 in Bangkok, Samdech Chaosen Kosal chaired the meeting with his opening short statement that the meeting today is to select Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk as the President of SNC and that is it. I interrupted him and said in fact we had many things to discuss in the agenda and that was just one of them. I insisted to include 1) arranging and dispatching members of the SNC to occupy the Cambodian seat at the United Nations, 2) declaration of a cease fire and cessation of foreign military assistance. But the meeting was in disarray and closed after declaring opening. Then we had a meeting between the co-chairmen of SNC with the special representative of the General Secretary of the United Nations with the participation of France and Indonesia – co-hosts of the Paris Peace Conference. We still did not have a chairperson for SNC. On May 6, 1991, there was a meeting between the co-hosts of the Paris Peace Conference and its agenda was indeed the discussion between Hun Sen and Preah Norodom Sihanouk in which Samdech Preah Norodom decided to return to Cambodia with or without a political solution.
The May-2 meeting was very important because it is relating to the return of Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk to Cambodia and May 4 was to decide about the venue. The decision to repair the Royal Palace was not after the Paris Peace Agreement at all but prior to that. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk asked me about security issue and said, “please protect me or the Khmer Rouge would infiltrate the Royal Palace to kill me.” I offered Samdech Preah Norodom with my assurance but also to propose if he would be more confident with foreign bodyguards. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk said he preferred the Koreans. That they continue their presence up to this moment is indeed a different matter.
Returning to Bangkok was an urgent and secret one but there is nothing as secret in this world. After the coup to oust Chatichay Chunhavan, Prime Minister Anan Panharachun requested for a meeting with me and it was the first time that the Prime Minsiter of Thailand did so during my stay. He said to me that he heard that Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk is to return to Cambodia. I said in return, yes it is true. What to do with the Son San and Khmer Rouge factions? I felt the move aimed to hinder but not a total hindrance in the sense. That was the inclusion of Samdech Sihanouk into the SNC framework. When I arrived in Bangkok there was this move to replace Samdech Chaosen Kosal with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk in the SNC. At that time, we still did not offer him the chairmanship of the SNC yet, only the chairman of the SNC meetings. The meeting of May 24 through to 26, 1991, the Khmer Rouge accepted a ceasefire on status quo and declared cessation of foreign military assistance due to such a strong pressure.
When Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk became the chairman of the SNC and what to discuss was indeed a mystery. Only two people – Samdech Preah Norodom Sahanouk and Hun Sen – were to know issues of decision making of the SNC and the electoral system. The SoC proposed for a consensus with final decision made by the chairman. The United Nations proposed a consensus with final decision made by the UNTAC head. Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk sent a letter to the General Secretary of the United Nations arguing that decision making power will rest with the Head of UNTAC or SNC would be a matter to be decided by the Cambodian Prime Minister. I had no options in the Security Council but to answer “yes”. As far as the electoral system is concerned, according to the agreement it had to be a proportionate system at the country level. But later it was decided to have a proportional system at the provincial level. That is what I wish to share with all of you in relation to where SNC idea was coming from and how it was taking shape./.