THE rainy season in Cambodia will end around Oct. 1. If the Khmer Rouge, which has refused to turn in its weapons in accord with the peace agreement it signed last year, enters the dry season with military strength intact, Cambodia's hopes for a better future could be dashed. The government in Phnom Penh may then decide it has little choice but to prepare for a new round of warfare with the Maoist guerrillas.
To ward off a new descent into fighting, the United Nations diplomats who engineered the peace accord should immediately turn up the heat on the Khmer Rouge. The first step is an economic embargo. The Khmer Rouge gets its money from exploiting the timber, gems, and other natural resources in the part of Cambodia it controls. These materials flow primarily across the border into Thailand, where Thai military officials and merchants reap a big profit. The embargo, however, should embrace economic dealings with the Khmer Rouge by any country.
In addition, bank accounts controlled by the Khmer Rouge - in Thailand or elsewhere in the region - should be frozen. The idea is to cut the group's financial lifeline.
Judging from recent reports, Beijing has been applying pressure on its former Khmer Rouge clients. Military gear is no longer flowing in from China, which means the guerrillas' capacity for warmaking is hindered. Also, Chinese officials reportedly had an arm-twisting session with Pol Pot, the "retired" Khmer Rouge leader who masterminded the atrocities of the late '70s.
What if, after all the pressure, the Khmer Rouge still doesn't come around? The UN may have to set a deadline for compliance, making it clear that after that point a "peacemaking" operation would be undertaken in Khmer Rouge-controlled areas to force compliance. The toughness of the economic embargo will lend credibility to this ultimatum.
Many have doubted right along that the Khmer Rouge could be trusted to cooperate in the peace effort. Its obstinacy confirms those doubts. But the effort to rebuild Cambodia should proceed with or without its cooperation. The UN has already made a huge investment in this ravaged land, and international financial and humanitarian organizations will follow up on the UN's work.
Only an international commitment extending beyond next spring's planned elections will lure back the educated Cambodians, as well as the foreign investors, who will be able to run and fund a new Cambodia.