THE United Nations took command of Cambodia yesterday, drawing the war-torn country closer to peace but with meager resources to finish its task.
Budget woes, as much as the intransigence of the Khmer Rouge to disarm itself, are expected to hinder the role of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). UNTAC will be the largest field operation in UN history with 22,000 blue-helmeted soldiers, police, and administrators.
UNTAC head Yasushi Akashi arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday to take authority over the country. He had spent the previous five days in his native Japan pleading with the government to foot one-third of the $2.8 billion bill estimated for the Cambodian peace mission.
Both Japan and the United States are hesitating to take on the largest share of funding for UNTAC, even though UNTAC has begun to act on plans to disarm 70 percent of the four Cambodian armies, maintain a cease-fire, manage the existing government, and prepare for 1993 elections.
The Japanese government has hopes of taking a leading role in Cambodia as a test of its diplomatic influence in Asia and within the UN. But so far, it has been stymied by domestic opposition to sending troops to serve in UN peace operations, by its own budget considerations, and by exclusion from some UN decisions on Cambodia.
"Cambodia is closely related to the peace and stability of Asia," Mr. Akashi told a Japanese parliamentary committee last week. "I would like Japan to be generous in making contributions."
Although Japan is under obligation to donate only 12.45 percent of the UNTAC budget, compared to the 30.38 percent expected of the US, Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe said last week that Japan will bear more than its mandatory share.
"The international community is expecting Japan to put up about one-third of the funds," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Masamichi Hanabusa.
But Japan is waiting to make a firm commitment for more support until it sees the size of the US donation. The US has been slow to respond because of the presidential campaign and worries that its money may inadvertantly support the Khmer Rouge. (US peacekeeping role, Page 8.)
Japan is also planning to sponsor an international conference in June to work out plans for restoring the Cambodian economy, including investment in industry and the rebuilding of the country's shattered infrastructure. Japanese firms are already doing business in Cambodia, some having been there since 1988, even before the invasion forces of Vietnam had withdrawn.
Foreign Vice Minister Koji Kakizawa will visit Phnom Penh March 19-21, the highest-ranking Japanese official to visit Cambodia after more than two decades of war. Also, the premier of the government in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen, will visit Tokyo from March 21-23 on his way to the US.
Mr. Kakizawa says Cambodia will accept a large Japanese role because it is "free from unfortunate memories of the Second World War," unlike some other Asian nations once occupied by Japan. During most of the war, Japan left rule of Cambodia largely to French officials.
Many Japanese leaders are less eager than the US to push Cambodia into holding democratic elections next year. "Durable peace needs an economic base to sustain it," says Kakizawa, who adds that Cambodia's ability to absorb foreign aid is "totally inadequate." Removal of several hundred thousand land mines might also delay elections.
One reason for Japan's slowness to commit more money is that it has yet to decide what type of personnel it might send to Cambodia. It does not want to appear as just a bankroller for a foreign military operation, such as during the Gulf war.
The UNTAC chief called on Japan to serve as a staging area for military supplies and troops on their way to Cambodia.
But the idea received a cool response in Tokyo. Akashi also asked Japan to provide 10 percent of the 1,400 people expected to be needed for preparing and monitoring elections in Cambodia.
Finding Japanese civilian volunteers could be difficult, so officials are more eager to have the nation's military join the UNTAC peacekeeping operations.
Since the Gulf crisis, however, Japan's ruling party has failed twice to pass a bill authorizing military deployment to UN peacekeeping operations. Opposition parties demand that such a bill give parliament authority to approve any such deployment.
The government opposes the idea, saying that lengthy debate might delay Japan's ability to respond quickly to a UN request for troops. Government advertisements in a few Japanese magazines have tried to persuade people to support the bill, but public opinion is warming only slowly.
In recent days, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa has appeared to back away from his support of the bill.