Cambodia's sign of hope

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 May, 1993, 12:00am

AS the counting begins this morning to determine the outcome of Cambodia's landmark polls, the United Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) can congratulate itself on an unexpectedly peaceful election with a 90 per cent turnout many Western democracies can only dream of. It was the UN that correctly judged the mood of the Cambodian people, pushing ahead with the election in defiance of threatened violence.

But it was the Khmer Rouge's own last minute U-turn which allowed it to happen. Despite their leaders' official boycott, many Khmer Rouge followers turned out to vote for the royalist FUNCINPEC party, and acts of violence were few.

This may turn out to be the calm before the storm, if as some UN officials reportedly fear the ruling State of Cambodia party is defeated but refuses to step down. Head of State Prince Norodom Sihanouk's decision to exclude the Khmer Rouge from governmentmay also have violent repercussions. The elections stand as a symbol of hope and reconciliation. But Cambodia's sufferings are not over.