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Analyses given at VOA symposium on Indochina)  (660)
By Jane A. Morse
USIA Staff Writer
Washington --  Cambodia's future remains dangerously uncertain, even if
U.N.-monitored elections scheduled for next month are successful, according
to scholars who spoke at an April 7 Voice of America (VOA) symposium on the
future of Indochina.
Frederick Brown predicted that the U.N.-organized elections scheduled for
May 23-27 will in fact be held, despite attacks on U.N. peacekeepers by the
Khmer Rouge guerrilla faction.  Furthermore, the election process itself
promises to be "meticulously careful and technologically sophisticated," he
The important question now, according to Brown, is:  "Will the losers honor
the rights of the winners?"
In addition, he said, the Khmer Rouge appear determined to be the spoilers
in the whole process; about 20 percent of the ballots may be challenged;
and, the final results for the election may not be tabulated for 4-5
Brown is the director of Southeast Asia Studies at the Nitze School of
Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University's Foreign
Policy Institute.
Khatharya Um, a research specialist on southeast Asia and consultant for the
Rand Corporation, predicted that it would be unlikely that the Khmer Rouge
would allow voting within their zones and that there is talk of a de facto
partition of the country.  Although more than 310,000 Cambodian refugees
have been returned to Cambodia, an estimated 190,000 Cambodians are
considered displaced persons within their own country, she said.
The problems of reintegrating all these people into Cambodian society are
enormous, she said, noting that questions have yet to be answered regarding
1roperty ownership rights, and political as well as physical security.
Vietnam, while not suffering the political and military turmoil that plagues
Cambodia, is facing critical questions regarding its future -- not the
least of which those that address its national identity, according to
Douglas Pike, director of the Indochina Studies Project at the University
of California at Berkeley.  Pike is also the director of the Indochina
Archives and editor of "Indochina Chronology."
Marxism is dead in Vietnam, and economics is in command but Vietnamese have
yet to form a social consensus about who they are, where they want to go,
and how they will get there, Pike said.
Vietnam is in desperate need of a more informed, educated leadership with
skills to run a modern society, he said.  He added that he is pessimistic
that Vietnam will get this kind of leadership any time soon.
According to Nguyen Manh Hung, director of the Indochina Institute and
associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University,
all the indications are that Vietnam will vigorously promote economic
reform in a strict socialistic framework and will continue to consolidate
power within the communist party.  Yet he predicted that it will be
difficult for Vietnam to continue a totalitarian regime for long.
As for what turn U.S. policy should take toward Vietnam, Brown recommended
the establishment of formal bilateral relations.  He eschewed the word
"normalization," saying it would be impossible for decades for the U.S. and
Vietnam to develop relations that could be called "normal."
Laos, still one of the poorest countries in the world, is nonetheless making
steady, albeit slow, economic progress, according to Stephen Johnson,
currently an analyst for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the
State Department.
"The Lao government has been attacking problems in a rational way," he said,
and has been somewhat successful in attracting foreign investment.
Johnson said that there is little movement now toward a more pluralistic
government in Laos, and that the Lao populace doesn't seem to be overly
discontented with its leadership.  Even so, Lao is a freer society than it
was in the past, and there is the possibility that a more democratic state
could slowly evolve, he said.

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