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Kampuchea

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Kampuchea - Margaret Thatcher Interview

Margaret Thatcher: Blue Peter interview on Kampuchea

Margaret Thatcher is interviewed by Caron Keating for Blue Peter's 'Bring and Buy' appeal for Kampuchea [Cambodia], December 1988.

Presenter:

We promised you a special report on Kampuchea today, and here it comes. It's all about the long term future of the country. Now, you may remember when we launched the Great Bring and Buy Sale for Kampuchea, we explained how the country was taken over, in 1975, by this man.

Presenter:

His name is Pol Pot, and with his troops, the Khmer Rouge, he set about destroying everything that had been there before. Schools were banned and so was music. Even parents and children were split up, because the Khmer Rouge didn't believe in families. Everyone was forced to leave the towns and work in the fields and, worse of all, about one third of all the people were killed. It's hard to understand what Pol Pot and his men hoped to achieve by such cruelty, but one thing is certain, the brutality of those years will never be forgotten.

Presenter:

Awful as it may seem, Pol Pot and his men are still out there in the hills and jungles. When Vietnam invaded the country, in 1979, and the world discovered the horrors of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge retreated, but they were never captured.

Presenter:

And this is where the incredibly complicated world of politics and governments comes in. Vietnam invaded Kampuchea - Vietnam's just there - and it invaded Kampuchea and took it over completely. Countries like Britain and America never accepted Vietnam's invasion. And although the governments of Britain and America have no liking at all for the Khmer Rouge, they still regard them as part of the group that is the true government of Kampuchea. But, recently, lots of big and powerful countries like China, the Soviet Union and America, have been working out how to deal with Kampuchea's problem, and one country that's very much involved in those talks is Britain.

Presenter:

Months ago, the Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, went to visit Kampuchean people living in camps just outside their own country, across the border in Thailand. She met a man who used to be a leader of the Kampuchean people, Prince Sihanouk. The Prince is the man who might be able to govern Kampuchea once the Vietnamese leave.

Margaret Thatcher:

Everyone, having suffered under Pol Pot, and, you know, we saw some terrible pictures and accounts of the atrocities at home, and I think we were all perturbed that we couldn't do something about it, and the United Nations couldn't do anything about it. They want to know, before they go home, that they're never going to be subjected to that again.

Presenter:

And because Mrs Thatcher is so interested in the future of Kampuchea, we thought we'd talk to her to find out what she thinks of our appeal. So, I was very pleased when I was invited to No.10 Downing Street, last Friday afternoon, and I asked the Prime Minister if Britain will give aid to Kampuchea now that the Vietnamese are going home.

Margaret Thatcher:

I think when the Vietnamese have left and when we have some hope of getting a truly representative government in Kampuchea, yes, I think the British government will be prepared to give aid, and that's what I promised, when I went to see so many of them in a refugee camp. But the first thing, you know, is to get the Vietnamese out. We hope they will go out but it's going to take a time yet. And then, really, the next thing is to ensure that Pol Pot doesn't get back into government, because they would all fear him. And so, Prince Sihanouk, who is their head of state, was before the Vietnamese invaded, has been working very hard, with all the other people from all the other groups, to try to make arrangements for a government that will be suitable for everyone.

Presenter:

What do you think we're going to be able to do to make sure that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are kept out of the country?

Margaret Thatcher:

Most people agree that Pol Pot himself could not go back, nor his - some of his supporters, who were very active in some of the terrible things that happened. So, there's quite an agreement about that. Some of the Khmer Rouge, of course, are very different. I think there are probably two parts of the Khmer Rouge, there are those who supported Pol Pot, and then there's a much, much reasonable grouping within that title, Khmer Rouge.

Presenter:

Do you really think...

Margaret Thatcher:

Well, that is what I am assured by people who know. So, you'll find that the more reasonable ones of the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in the future government, but only a minority part. I share your utter horror that these terrible things went on in Kampuchea. The United Nations couldn't do anything about them, none of us could do anything about them. They were absolutely terrible.

Presenter:

Although Pol Pot is actually on the border at the moment, it said only in Thursday's paper that he is actually there.

Margaret Thatcher:

Yes, indeed. And, of course, there are camps of his supporters. And the Khmer Rouge would have to be some of the people who took part in the government. You know, I went to that refugee camp, and we do help a lot, both with the running the camps, we gave something like 13 million to running that particular camp, a fantastic number of people there. And then, when there's a special programme for Kampuchea, we give some money. And now there's going to be another programme, special programme, for mothers and babies in Kampuchea, and we're going to give a quarter of a million pounds to that. So, we don't give directly, at the moment, to the people in Cambodia, through their government, because we don't recognise their government. But we give whenever there's a programme, run by some of the people who we know will make certain the money gets to the people.

Presenter:

By the end of 89, most of the Vietnamese should have left, so, we have a relatively short time.

Margaret Thatcher:

Let's hope so, let's hope so.

Presenter:

Isn't it a worry, though, that Pol Pot, during that time, if nothing is done by the West, you know, sort of, urgently, that Pol Pot will have got in again, will have taken control of the country, how can that be stopped?

Margaret Thatcher:

The West is working steadily together and, these days, we work much more closely through the United Nations than we used to. Now, the key people, to the Pol Pot matter, really are the Chinese. Both the Chinese and the Soviet Union wish to see peace brought to Kampuchea and will both be prepared to be very helpful, and certainly the Soviet Union is. You know, had we had this interview, say, two years ago, I think I would have been a bit more pessimistic, but don't you find there's a new spirit in the world now? It is that it's time to settle some of these very, very old problems.

Presenter:

What do you think of our appeal?

Margaret Thatcher:

I'm delighted. I think it's marvellous what the children do, and I think it's marvellous what the Blue Peter children have done. You wanted something a little bit special for the auction to add to it. I just have - I collect these little paperweights, and they've brought out a new one. The last time, I think, I was on a children's programme, it was a badger. This time, they've brought out a little koala bear, and perhaps someone would like to buy that.

Presenter:

Everybody who gives us something for one of our sales, we give them a Bring and Buy Sale for Kampuchea sticker, so, there you are.

Margaret Thatcher:

Oh, marvellous, marvellous.

Presenter:

If you'd like to wear that.

Margaret Thatcher:

I'll put it up immediately, and you'll let me know how much it raises.

Presenter:

I will indeed.

Margaret Thatcher:

Yes.

Presenter:

Thank you very much.

Margaret Thatcher:

And thank the children, and a happy Christmas to everyone.

Presenter:

Thank you.

Margaret Thatcher:

Thank you.

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