KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations on Monday called on Vietnam to begin indirect talks with the Cambodian resistance, making formal a proposal already floated by ASEAN members and rejected by Vietnam.
The proposal, aimed at a political settlement of the Cambodian conflict, has been accepted by the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, the political arm of the resistance forces, ASEAN foreign ministers said in a statement released here at their annual meeting.
Zainal Sulong, secretary general of the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, said that the appeal for "Vietnam to abandon the current policy of seeking a military solution" and start exploratory talks was sent to Hanoi through diplomatic channels Monday morning and that there was no immediate response.
Talks Through Mediator
In the "proximity talks," Vietnamese and resistance representatives would discuss the possibilities of a settlement through a mediator. The two sides, while at the same location, would not deal directly with each other.
The three-faction resistance coalition, with Prince Norodom Sihanouk as its president, has been recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate government of Cambodia. Its guerrilla forces are pitted against a Vietnamese occupation army that invaded Cambodia in December, 1978, and installed a pro-Hanoi government in the capital of Phnom Penh.
The ASEAN statement said that the Hanoi-installed government headed by Heng Samrin could attend the proposed talks "as part of the Vietnamese delegation."
Malaysia originally suggested indirect discussions between the resistance coalition and representatives of the Heng Samrin government. Thailand suggested a change that was adopted, making the discussion partners Vietnam and the resistance, with the Heng Samrin representatives as part of the Hanoi delegation.
The Thai-backed approach is considered more hard-line, for it suggests that Hanoi is the power to deal with in Cambodia, not the Phnom Penh government. Negotiating with Heng Samrin would give the impression of legitimacy to a regime installed by a foreign power, supporters of the final position argue.
The Vietnamese, anticipating the final form, rejected the approach late last week in a statement distributed by the official Vietnam News Agency. Zainal of Malaysia said that his government "was a little surprised they had expressed hostility to the idea" before receiving the formal proposal.
He said that ASEAN would disregard the news agency report and wait for direct word from Hanoi. ASEAN proposed that the parties discuss a comprehensive political settlement based on four points: withdrawal of the estimated 160,000 to 180,000 Vietnamese troops from Cambodia, a U.N. commission to oversee the withdrawal plan and deal with security, the return of all Cambodian factions to the country and unsupervised elections.
Non-Communist ASEAN has opposed the Vietnamese occupation since it began, and Singapore's Foreign Minister S. Dhanabalan set the tone for almost every foreign minister at Monday's opening session.
"For six years, ASEAN and the international community have tried to persuade Vietnam to withdraw from Cambodia and reach a negotiated settlement. . . ," he said. "In these six years, the Cambodian problem has grown from aggression and foreign occupation to one of total colonization. Vietnamese colonial practices threaten to end Cambodia as a culture and a nation."
The ASEAN countries are Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei.