Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, opposition to foreign intervention and to occupation of any country by a neighbor has stiffened, not slackened as communist diplomats had hoped.
Vietnam and its allies have suffered two severe diplomatic defeats in a row at the General Assembly.
First, Vietnam's challenge to the credentials of the Pol Pot delegation was defeated Oct. 13, by 74 against 35, with 32 abstentions. The second defeat came when a proposal from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore) regarding "peace in Cambodia" was adopted by an overwhelming majority Oct. 21.
The strength of the anti-Vietnamese vote came as a surprise to communist diplomats, who expected "realism to prevail" and "time to be working on the side of Vietnam." According to many nonaligned diplomats here, and Soviet occupation of Afghanistan hardened the opposition of most nonaligned countries to Vietnam's presence in Cambodia.
The proposal adopted calls for the convening of an international conference (to be held in Bangkok early next year) whose task will be to put political pressure on Vietnam and reach an agreement on:
* The withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia.
* The establishing of a UN peace-keeping force to ensure the noninterference by outside powers in the internal affairs of Cambodia and the supervising of free elections in that country.
* Guarantees to respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Cambodia.
Analysts here are divided regarding the usefulness of the projected conference. Some, including the Chinese, feel that pressure must be brought to bear on Vietnam: "Otherwise Vietnam will absorb Laos and Cambodia and later pursue its expansion throughout Southeast Asia," says one Asian diplomat.
Others believe that the conference will be counterproductive inasmuch as it will only stiffen Vietnam's resolve to keep its force in Cambodia and that it will increase its dependence on the Soviet Union.
Vietnam hinted that movement on Cambodia could come at some later date when relations between the ASEAN and the Indo-Chinese countries had improved. This approach was found unacceptable by the ASEAN countries, who felt they were being asked the close their eyes to Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia.
The ASEAN countries were careful to make it clear that they did not act as Chinese surrogates. The conference on Cambodia to be convened at their suggestion must assure that "Cambodia will not be a threat to its neighbors" and that it will be free of any outside interference.