THE United Nations is sticking by its timetable for holding elections in Cambodia in May 1993, but has opted for a conciliatory approach to lure the Khmer Rouge back into the process.
In a detailed resolution, adopted unanimously on Oct. 13, the Security Council deplored the lack of cooperation by the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) Party, the official name of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, and demands that the DK respect the commitments it signed in the Paris peace accords Oct. 23, 1991.
The Khmer Rouge, the most powerful of the four factions that have fought each other since the Vietnamese-installed government took power in Phnom Penh in 1979, has refused to cooperate with UN efforts to regroup, disarm, and demobilize troops. The DK says the UN election process is unfair and has refused access to UN officials to register voters in areas it controls.
If last-minute diplomatic efforts do not succeed, the Council may consider economic sanctions against the Khmer Rouge as early as mid-November. These could include a freeze of the group's assets abroad and of its timber and gem trade with Thailand. The UN has decided that, if necessary, elections will proceed without the Khmer Rouge.
"If any party excludes itself, there's not much we can do," says Yasushi Akashi, the UN secretary-general's special representative for Cambodia. Mr. Akashi presides over the UN's most ambitious, comprehensive, and costly UN involvement in any conflict to date.
The Khmer Rouge says that the Phnom Penh government has too much power and the Supreme National Council (SNC), the UN-supervised interim administration body representing all four factions, is too weak. The DK insists that Vietnamese forces are still in Cambodia - a point Hanoi and UN officials deny - and that Cambodians of Vietnamese heritage should not be allowed to vote in the May elections.
One hope for some compromise is an informal Japanese and Thai effort to persuade the Khmer Rouge to rejoin the process. The two nations propose setting up a consultative body under the SNC to help guide UN administrative efforts. Phnom Penh says it will consider the proposal.
Some diplomats and analysts say the Khmer Rouge really wants to sabotage UN efforts to disarm troops and hold free elections. Others argue that some DK concerns are genuine. They say the cooperation of the Khmer Rouge, which controls about 20 percent of Cambodia, is vital to the success of elections there.
Not to include the Khmer Rouge in the elections and allow the DK to establish its party in the rest of the country would change `the whole thrust" of the Paris peace accords, suggests Frederick Brown, director of Southeast Asian Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He says the accords aim at creating a government representative of all shades of political opinion in Cambodia. "I don't think anyone wants to open the agreements to drastic or even slight modification," he adds.
So far about one-fourth of the armed forces of the three other Cambodian factions have been cantoned and disarmed. Akashi concedes that security concerns, prompted by the Khmer Rouge refusal to cooperate, have effectively put a brake on that process. He says that if the Khmer Rouge become involved by early December they could take part in elections and that even a decision to join in by early 1993 could lead to some "special arrangements."
Still, the DK's lack of cooperation to date fuels speculation that the Khmer Rouge may harass election efforts or resume the fighting.
"Anything is possible, but we do not think there will be a resumption of a major full-scale military offensive," Akashi says.