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Coalition Structure

The three leaders finally signed an agreement on the longsought coalition on June 22, 1982, in Kuala Lumpur. Sihanouk pledged to be "a loyal partner" and to respect the accord; Son Sann praised the CGDK as "an authentic and legal government"; and Khieu Samphan voiced hope that the CGDK would last a long time, even after the eventual Vietnamese departure. The three signed the coalition agreement without identifying their organizations because Son Sann had refused to recognize Sihanouk's FUNCINPEC.

The June agreement failed to mitigate substantially suspicion of the Khmer Rouge. Sihanouk and Son Sann, for instance, refused to allow CGDK headquarters to be located on Khmer Rouge-controlled territory. Within only a few days of the signing, Sihanouk proposed--at the urging of Singapore and Malaysia--that the two noncommunist groups merge in an effort to improve their standing vis--vis the Khmer Rouge. But Son Sann, wanting to maintain a separate identity, rejected the idea. In addition, Sihanouk had planned to announce, in Bangkok on July 12, that the agreement had been signed, but the Voice of Democratic Kampuchea--the Khmer Rouge's clandestine radio station, aired the text of the accord on July 11 and upstaged Sihanouk. Animosity between Sihanouk and Khieu Samphan grew because of the incident.

The purpose of the CGDK, as stated in the June accord, was "to mobilize all efforts in the common struggle to liberate Kampuchea from the Vietnamese aggressors" and "to bring about the implementation of the declaration of the International Conference on Kampuchea and other relevant UN General Assembly resolutions." After the Vietnamese withdrawal, the Cambodians were to determine their own future through a general, free, and secret election under UN supervision.

The CGDK was to function within the "legitimacy and framework of the State of Democratic Kampuchea," and its three partners were to share power equally and to make decisions by consensus. Each partner would have a certain degree of freedom and would maintain organizational and political autonomy. The autonomy would be needed should the CGDK prove unworkable, in which case the right to represent Cambodia would revert to the Khmer Rouge "in order to ensure the continuity of the state of Democratic Kampuchea" as a member of the United Nations.

The coalition's top governing body was the "inner cabinet," formally called the Council of Ministers (see fig. 10). The threemember inner cabinet consisted of Sihanouk as president of Democratic Kampuchea, Khieu Samphan as vice president in charge of foreign affairs, and Son Sann as prime minister. The cabinet was to meet regularly inside Cambodia--to demonstrate the viability of the CGDK--for the purposes of discussing domestic and foreign policy matters and of resolving differences within the coalition. Below the inner cabinet were six coordinating committees, each with one representative from each of the coalition's three factions. The six committees, or ministries, were in charge of economy and finance; national defense; culture and education; public health and social affairs; military affairs, and press and information affairs.

In the late 1980s, the CGDK claimed to have held an inner cabinet session inside Cambodia at least once a year since its formation. According to unconfirmed reports, much of the time in these sessions was devoted to charges made by Sihanouk that Khmer Rouge soldiers had attacked his troops. The Khmer Rouge denied the charges, blaming "Vietnamese agents" for such incidents if, indeed, they had occurred at all.

In 1987 Sihanouk engaged in considerable maneuvering as he sought to restore some momentum to the search for a negotiated solution to the situation in Cambodia. Adopting the tactic of temporary abdication of responsibility that he had employed before in his long political career, he began a one-year leave of absence from his duties as president of the CGDK in May 1987. Sihanouk cited several reasons for his decision. The first was his displeasure with continued Khmer Rouge attacks on his troops and the human rights violations by the Khmer Rouge and by the KPNLF against displaced persons in refugee camps controlled by these groups (see Migration and Refugees , ch. 2). The second reason was the alleged "duplicity" of unnamed foreign governments, which, Sihanouk said, were exploiting Cambodia as a pawn in their power struggle. He also claimed that an unidentified foreign sponsor-- probably an allusion to China--was deliberately holding back "the rebirth of Sihanoukism" for the benefit of the Khmer Rouge. Finally, Sihanouk added that he was leaving to explore the prospect of reconciliation with leaders of Hanoi and Phnom Penh. Sihanouk's temporary dissociation from the CGDK, some observers believed, would free him from the burden of consulting with Son Sann and Khieu Samphan.

Data as of December 1987

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