Asia Society presents; 78
A. Right of society presents this is a series of interviews with authorities on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is a noted author and award winning a broadcaster. Lee Graham here now is Mrs. Graham. Not many of us know very much about Cambodia and tonight we hope that this particular broadcast will remedy that to some extent. Our guest is Richard Melville. Mr. Melville in addition to being vice president of the Allied Bank International and that is no small job but for the purposes of this broadcast he is chairman of the Cambodia Council of the Asia Society. Mr. Melville has spent considerable time in the Far East from nine hundred fifty nine thousand nine hundred sixty three held various positions
representing the United States government and he tries to get there at least once a year when he can. He has been in Cambodia about a year ago but since then is often in contact with people who are frequent visitors to that part of the world. Mr. Melville the Cambodian consul I know the Asia Society has a council for each Asian country which is a marvelous service that the society provides. What does the Cambodia consul do. Well the Cambodian Council was formed about a year ago in the wake of the awakened interest in Cambodia in this country. And the interest of the Asia Society to expand its public affairs presentations. The council includes Robert Meyers publisher of The New Republic Peter Poole professor of Government at Howard University and who is one of Cambodia's representatives at the I am after. Our work so far has been confined pretty strictly to public affairs presentations. BOB MYERS And I did
a channel 13 television show last year about this same time. Immediately immediately after the coup which overthrew Prince Sihanouk and the Cambodia Council has sponsored several round tables I might say that on April 29 Thursday evening we are sponsoring a roundtable at the Asia Society and I would encourage your listeners to attend. Bob Myers will be moderating that session and we will have a number of correspondents including Sam Jaffe former ABC bureau chief in Hong Kong who told me incidentally this morning by telephone that he was going to play King shortly. And Peter Arnett the AP Terry Smith of The New York Times and Sven ust of the Stockholm Daily News. Just to give us. And it will have to be a brief briefing on Cambodia. How did it become the country it is now with the borders it has. Cambodian history goes back 2000 years recorded
history. We can't spend too much time today going through all of that. I might say that in brief to give you a thumbnail sketch of modern Cambodian history really dates from the development of the great Angora civilization which all of you know is now unfortunately under the protection. I say that advisedly the Viet Cong. Cambodia was the great nation state of Southeast Asia through the 15th century border incursions by traditional enemies the ties on the West and the unease on the east gradually reduced Cambodia to a vassal state practically by the 15th century. In the 19th century mid 19th century the then Cambodian King
gratefully accepted the protectorate of the French who had come there in the natural course of law expanding international trade and commitments at the time. And from the 1860s until in fact 1954 when the Indochina states were broken up a period of almost a hundred years of France determined Cambodia's destinies internal and international. It was only in 1054 with the Geneva Accords the failure of the French in Indochina that Cambodia became a modern state. Now Quincy and oak seem to have a family firm grasp of the country and to the surprise of some of us maybe not. Experts like you Mr. Melleville. He was deposed by law and know what was the reason for his success and then why would you follow that one. What were the reasons for his downfall. Well I think Prince Sihanouk was a master at tugging and pushing
and cajoling his country. There was a certain torpor and lassitude that characterized the country which impressed many people. Some find it charming. Others of course particularly the number of technicians that have visited Cambodia in the past 20 years find it rather enervating. But Prince did pushes people into prominence through the 50s and 60s he was very successful and he has said himself in interviews that he was inspired by King jar of aman who was the ruler of Ankara during the great golden era or of its of its primary planning and construction. And also philosophically by a blend of Buddhism and Marxism and his own particular brand of neutrality scenic I believe established himself as the only ruler of world stature in Southeast Asia other than he was deposed while visiting Paris in 1990. March and
apparently in panic went first to Moscow where curiously he was turned away and thence to pay King where he remains today virtually I believe under house arrest although he's free to travel about the country. He was formally hyper vibrant with Renaissance man like qualities and accomplishments and his only activity. Now unfortunately he seems to be a daily radio broadcast written by written by the Chinese. Would you do a comparison between him and the man who overthrew him. No you can draw a comparison because Cnoc came from a long line of kings. He was royalty personified. I think that his accomplishments his his intellectual acumen is far greater frankly than Lon Nol Lon Nol a commoner although all his life as a member of a leading middle class family close to ruling circles nevertheless made his mark as a military
man. He was close to Prince Sihanouk during the famous about him dying days when they were battling for their country's independence 1953 and 54 and was a very very close personally and at the official level if you will to see you know all during the formative years of the modern Cambodian state. Lon Nol was deposing Prince Sihanouk however did not come as a surprise. He had been selected by scenic in 1957 to head a government and was very angered by the facts you know immediately in order to provide a kind of counterbalance to whatever influence he might gain and listed the support of a number of communists and install them as ministers. This so angered Lon Nol that his his government lasted only a short time and he himself resigned from that time that is one hundred sixty eight. He was
also rather dismayed disappointed in seeing attempts to socialize the economy and that factor coupled with with scenics increasing absence from the country and courting a paid King which you decision. A city was Lee during this time. I think finally led those around Lawndale to urge him to depose Enoch which he did. Perhaps one could draw a comparison more easily between a scieno and Sukarno both using communist support to strengthen their position. Yes one made one a fatal mistake I guess one could say you know. Very cautiously used the communist counterbalance I think he used in fact with us in the early 50s and 60s with some success. He extracted quite a lot of aid from us by doing so.
Sukarno was was much more willing to permanently or give the indication at least that he would see that it would be permanently align himself with baking while scenic always hedged his bets. Do we seem to be playing this is perhaps a digression but after all China is on the border of Cambodia and I suppose that we seem to be playing that sort of clever game ourselves now by the new ping pong diplomacy in China. I would hope not. I personally have long been in favor of a much closer alignment with taking. I think for too long we've adopted a rather how ostrich like attitude with regard to communist China I'm glad now to see that these diplomatic initiatives and there have been quite diplomatic initiatives I understand in Poland and in Canada are beginning to pay off. I'm all in favor of ping pong diplomacy too. Yes and there we better strengthen that game because right out our window tennis we get Iraq.
I would guess when it says that that the Chinese government is skill and table tennis is due to their learning how to hold chopsticks at a very early age I don't know whether that should be suggested or not. That's the secret of my thing. Yeah I got had no job sticks. I was wondering how much of this is a genuine desire to get together in this world with another launch like China or whether it is simply a way to offset Russia and embarrass and harass her by appearing to draw closer to China. Do you think we are doing. No I hope it's genuine. President Nixon has announced new diplomatic moves and if we examine the situation as it's developed over the past year the United States has after all made several moves call them initiatives. As early as a year ago we had come up with a trade policy for non-strategic goods trade policies generally over the past year have been liberalized and to a degree and I think
not at all I think that we've taken some initiatives I think it's to be encouraged and I hope that we we make Washington does anyway more forthright statements about our intentions. Yes these things have appeared in small print from time to time in the press but you have to put the both together into one large five as you have done now and then we become aware of the fact that this has been going on this is something that must have taken months to create this is sending a team a table tennis team to China. Well I don't know I'm not aware of how that developed to relate this to Cambodia. I think it's unfortunate that the the movies which the United States is making and what European nations have of course been making for a long time has not been picked up. In Cambodia I think that the Cambodian leadership has been very slow to recognize the need which felt early and after all he was probably more right
than wrong to deal with the Chinese in an open and frank manner. I think the trouble with our policy in Southeast Asia is it can be traced back to the 50s was that it was based out of fear of communist China. Their incursions their seeming desires are interpretation anyway to control mainland Southeast Asia. I believe that this is a wrong interpretation of their intentions they probably feared us more than we should have feared them. That was a lot of distrust that resulted. And we know the harm it's done. I would hope the Cambodian leadership would very early arrange for a visit with takings leaders. What in your opinion was the effect of our incursion into Cambodia militarily. Was there anything helpful about it was it entirely home full How do you see it Mr. Melleville.
I see it as a as a blunder and. And for the following very simple reasons I think it failed to achieve its stated purpose which was after all a reasonable one denying food and sanctuaries to the enemy. I think it's premier law Nalls opinion I've been told this anyway by people who have talked to him personally that in fact that the American South Vietnamese incursion merely drove the enemy westward and as a result and this is one of the subtleties that may have missed a few people actually in itself created the need for ever more massive infusions of American military assistance in Cambodia. Not that a little is not needed. However in retrospect practically everyone agrees that we were wrong in going in and in fact a number of astute commentators and reporters were saying these very things before we did go in in April of last year. What do you think it means for the United States to have a leader like Sihanouk compared to a leader like lawn. No in Cambodia. Do we have a
better chance of getting along with Mondale although as we know he's been ill and has just become boring now. What's his is his point of view one that we can embrace. Better than that it's developed. Well I think that your your question if I may say reflects perhaps a too great concern on the part of those of us who view the situation from here with what the situation means to us. I think that we in fact should be mostly concerned with what Londo is continued leadership will mean only to the Cambodian people because I think in the long run only through local initiatives only through. Getting that country back on its feet can it survive in the middle as it is between Thailand Vietnam. So very close to North Vietnam. Lon Nol by himself can probably not do the job that Ciena did
in bringing the country together in uniting the country. Seen it was a god figure. He was also a king who had relinquished his title in favor of his mother took on the title of chief of state. However the little people and these are this is 90 percent of the population of Cambodia the little people continued to revere him as a god king. Lionel will never have that hold that seen a cat on the people. I think secondly Cnoc had while it it it varied in degree from time to time depending on his external politics. I had the support of the intelligentsia. Lionel does not have the support of the intelligentsia he's a military man. As such in this day and age is distrusted by the intelligentsia I'm speaking of now especially the students and returning university graduates. He's got a long row to hoe if he manages to get good people behind him to put good people into important
ministries. He's accomplished that in part but not in whole. Then he will have I think the same chance of success that Ciena Klein have in the same situation. He's not the man in brief that you know was Aren't you surprised that scieno remains in China more under house arrest than as an absolutely welcome guest and that no effort is made to return him to Cambodia as head of state. Well I must confess that this is a personal opinion. This is house arrest phrase. I believe it a lot a lot of people don't. He does have a shadow government in Paris that is very actively We know trying to marshal support among governments and among the Cambodians who who remain outside of Cambodia today. I don't think the taking is very anxious to have seen a return in spite of the fact that he states on his Camaro Dio broadcasts
on radio Peking that the Chinese leaders are just about ready with a master plan which will result in his taking over the northern provinces of Cambodia. I just can't believe this. Why wouldn't it be to their advantage to have him they have rather than Lon Nol. If we look at it from that point of view I can see how the Cambodians regard CNP today and regard the possible effects of placing him back in control. I think realistically speaking the Chinese realize that they cannot place him back in control that it is simply physically impossible and that in fact attempting to with military force placing back in control might be harmful to what they consider I'm sure more important present current negotiations going on with the Soviet Union and the United States. Well that is I think it would be a thorn in the side of us at the present time which would be considered.
An unwelcome gesture and I don't think the baking leadership wants that. We don't we consider it more in the thorn of our side to have help military help from China going to North Vietnam. Well it's something that we have to live with I admit. The situation is not one that lends itself to clear analysis. I at least feel quite hopeful humble in trying to. To maintain a complete and up to date overview of the situation as it develops. I do think that picking in its list of importance list of priorities would rank Cambodia today way down the list. This might not seem so from our point of view as sitting here and regarding Southeast Asia as an adjunct of the of the China mainland so to speak as one looks at the map. I really can't believe as many commentators and many analysts have believed for a number of years that
Southeast Asia ranks that high and in takings priorities. Can you picture that China and United States could have a basis for friendship with Taiwan were given to China. I don't really think that that this is germane I don't perhaps I don't get the thrust of you know. No it's just that we were speaking about China and China can or cannot influence the politics of the countries around around here. And so it comes to mind that Taiwan is a part of the world that mainland China feels belongs to her. And since we were discussing the possibilities of deepening friendship between China and the United States I wondered whether that could develop unless Taiwan returned or made a part of mainland China. I don't think it's significant for Cambodia China relationships quite frankly. I think again that Taiwan is not is not high on the list of priorities with
taking Now this may seem at odds with some of those continent's current settlement summary statements but I think that there are many more important things that you think I'm thinking about presently and most important of which are our relations with the Soviet Union and the United States as far as Cambodia is concerned. It is an unfair we'd ask you to make any predictions. Well. I think that for some 20 years now Cambodia has been caught in the middle of a struggle among the great powers whether we the United States can assist Cambodia and her her future determination remains to be seen I think that we should in fact play a less important role than we have in the past. We seem to attract the Viet Cong as flies are attracted to fly paper and I would I would prefer a a lesser presence than a greater presence in Cambodia in the future. I'm inclined to believe that Cambodia should be left alone anxious for independence.
I'm quite ready to admit that this perhaps is an ambivalent view that perhaps we should give a little help and not too much. I'm quite ready to admit that I have a certain nostalgia for the country. I would be regretful if the Buddhist state of mind in the effects of centuries of Buddhist teaching would be eliminated in a few decades. This might happen if if the west I'm banned in Cambodia completely and lead to the inevitability of some sort of of loss if not to the Chinese which I would which I would doubt more strongly than for example the loss to Thais of the South Vietnamese. Military adventurism is not is not diplomacy. I think we should avoid future incursions. I believe that Cambodia is not of strategic importance it's not worth the commitment of troops
it deserves some arms length economic assistance and investment. And I would hope that this kind of thing would be funneled through way a world organization and not through a unilateral program. Well we thank you very much for your opinions Mr. Melville and I daresay you know as much as Cambodia as much about Cambodia as many people think they know. You have sued our government in Cambodia and Laos between 59 and 63 in various governmental positions. And I guess to Richard Melville is also chairman of the Cambodia Council of the age's society. In addition he is vice president of the Allied Bank International. I thank you very much. And good bye. Thank you. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with this series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program I would like further information about the
society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities. Please write to Mrs. Graham. WNYC New York 1 people here 0 7. This is the national educational radio network.
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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