Analyses given at VOA symposium on Indochina)  (660)

By Jane A. Morse

USIA Staff Writer

Washington --  Cambodia's future remains dangerously uncertain, even if

U.N.-monitored elections scheduled for next month are successful, according

to scholars who spoke at an April 7 Voice of America (VOA) symposium on the

future of Indochina.

Frederick Brown predicted that the U.N.-organized elections scheduled for

May 23-27 will in fact be held, despite attacks on U.N. peacekeepers by the

Khmer Rouge guerrilla faction.  Furthermore, the election process itself

promises to be "meticulously careful and technologically sophisticated," he


The important question now, according to Brown, is:  "Will the losers honor

the rights of the winners?"

In addition, he said, the Khmer Rouge appear determined to be the spoilers

in the whole process; about 20 percent of the ballots may be challenged;

and, the final results for the election may not be tabulated for 4-5


Brown is the director of Southeast Asia Studies at the Nitze School of

Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University's Foreign

Policy Institute.

Khatharya Um, a research specialist on southeast Asia and consultant for the

Rand Corporation, predicted that it would be unlikely that the Khmer Rouge

would allow voting within their zones and that there is talk of a de facto

partition of the country.  Although more than 310,000 Cambodian refugees

have been returned to Cambodia, an estimated 190,000 Cambodians are

considered displaced persons within their own country, she said.

The problems of reintegrating all these people into Cambodian society are

enormous, she said, noting that questions have yet to be answered regarding

1roperty ownership rights, and political as well as physical security.

Vietnam, while not suffering the political and military turmoil that plagues

Cambodia, is facing critical questions regarding its future -- not the

least of which those that address its national identity, according to

Douglas Pike, director of the Indochina Studies Project at the University

of California at Berkeley.  Pike is also the director of the Indochina

Archives and editor of "Indochina Chronology."

Marxism is dead in Vietnam, and economics is in command but Vietnamese have

yet to form a social consensus about who they are, where they want to go,

and how they will get there, Pike said.

Vietnam is in desperate need of a more informed, educated leadership with

skills to run a modern society, he said.  He added that he is pessimistic

that Vietnam will get this kind of leadership any time soon.

According to Nguyen Manh Hung, director of the Indochina Institute and

associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University,

all the indications are that Vietnam will vigorously promote economic

reform in a strict socialistic framework and will continue to consolidate

power within the communist party.  Yet he predicted that it will be

difficult for Vietnam to continue a totalitarian regime for long.

As for what turn U.S. policy should take toward Vietnam, Brown recommended

the establishment of formal bilateral relations.  He eschewed the word

"normalization," saying it would be impossible for decades for the U.S. and

Vietnam to develop relations that could be called "normal."

Laos, still one of the poorest countries in the world, is nonetheless making

steady, albeit slow, economic progress, according to Stephen Johnson,

currently an analyst for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the

State Department.

"The Lao government has been attacking problems in a rational way," he said,

and has been somewhat successful in attracting foreign investment.

Johnson said that there is little movement now toward a more pluralistic

government in Laos, and that the Lao populace doesn't seem to be overly

discontented with its leadership.  Even so, Lao is a freer society than it

was in the past, and there is the possibility that a more democratic state

could slowly evolve, he said.