`Free and Fair' Elections in Cambodia

In the Opinion page article "Cambodian Peacekeeping," April 22, the author, while discussing the role of the United Nations Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), states that "In mid-1993 UNTAC will organize `free and fair' elections in a country with no history of democratic elections...." Actually, after successfully gaining independence from France in 1953-54, "free and fair" elections were held in Cambodia.

On March 2, 1955, Prince Norodom Sihanouk announced his abdication from the throne of Cambodia in favor of his father, Norodom Suramarit, in order to provide himself with a free hand to engage in Cambodian politics. During that same year, Sihanouk established his own political party named Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People's Socialist Community), which was routinely referred to as the Sangkum, and entered the political arena.

In September 1955, elections were held and Sihanouk's party handily defeated the Khmer Independence Party, the Democrats, and the leftist Pracheachon party (People's Party). The Sangkum received 82 percent of the vote and all the seats in the National Assembly. Through the combined use of diplomatic concessions and internal purges, political opposition to Sihanouk's Sangkum had virtually disappeared by the early 1960s, but this does not change the fact that there were "free and fair" elections in 1955. James Gildea, Albany, NY Keep funding PBS

Thank you for the editorial "Poorly Aimed Salvo at PBS," May 15. As one of the many paying subscribers to Public Broadcasting Service, I cannot let this salvo burst forth without returning some flak.

PBS serves both the paying subscribers and those who cannot afford to subscribe. It certainly deserves the $24 million increase the House has already authorized for 1994. As the author states, currently PBS receives less than 20 percent of their funds from direct federal aid. Instead of trying to "turn off" viewers, PBS opponents Laurence Jarvik, George Will, and Sen. Bob Dole need to encourage more people to "tune in." Ann Macey, Augusta, Ga. Race relations

The editorial "Strife Between Blacks and Koreans," May 15, misses the underlying reasons for tensions between the two groups. It is not mainly that blacks and Koreans come from "very different cultures," but that too many blacks feel consigned to permanent places in the ghetto long after others have moved out. Class and race, not culture, are the real issues.

Also, most blacks probably do not believe that "inner-city neighborhoods have benefited by the presence" of stores, whatever the ethnicity of the owners, which historically have sold poorer quality goods at higher than average prices - probably a function of poverty yielding a lack of choices.

The editorial fails to note the flipside when stating that blacks "have to recognize that the [Korean] storekeepers' fear of crime is grounded in experience." Balance might suggest that Koreans recognize blacks anger over the killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, shot in the back in a dispute over a bottle of orange juice; the grocer received a suspended sentence for manslaughter.

The Rodney King verdict certainly brought back memories of social and legal injustice. Lionel McPherson, New York

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