THE STARVING CAMBODIANS who are trying by the thousands to flee their country attest to the monumental tragedy that has decimated that Southeast Asian people since the terrorist regime of Pol Pot took power in 1975. Reports from the few Western journalists and relief workers who have entered Cambodia in recent months indicate that the suffering continues under the present Vietnam-dominated Heng Samrin government, which overthrew Pol Pot earlier this year.
Government leaders in the United States have finally taken notice of the Cambodian tragedy, which has taken the lives of an estimated one-half of the population--3 to 4 million people. President Carter last week pledged $67 million in food and medical supplies to be distributed in Cambodia and Thailand by the International Red Cross and UNICEF, and the House approved about half of the aid package.
But the Cambodian government refused over the weekend to accept American aid in any form, calling it a "maneuver by the imperialists and international reactionaries" to assist the forces of Pol Pot, which continue to resist the Vietnamese. Cambodia said it was receiving all the help it needs from Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and other Communist nations.
Cambodia's willingness to let ideological and political considerations supercede fundamental humanitarian concerns is abhorrent. Because of the Heng Samrin regime's intransigence, millions more Cambodians may starve to death.
Although Cambodia's refusal to accept even indirect American aid is disheartening, it should not deter the United States and other countries from further attempts to send relief. The Heng Samrin government has already admitted United Nations and Oxfam relief workers and supplies. World pressure and American appeals for Soviet intervention may lead to Cambodia's opening its borders to additional aid.
A SUCCESSFUL Cambodian relief effort demands the participation of individual Americans as well as our government. Harvard students may take part by supporting the November 15 fast sponsored by the Harvard Hunger Action committee. Food Services will contribute one dollar for every student who pledges to fast that day. The committee will donate the proceeds to Oxfam-America. Sign-up tables will be in the dining halls today through Thursday.
The devastation in Cambodia makes it imperative that the United States not give up its well-intentioned relief efforts in the face of the Heng Samrin regime's rhetoric. Carter and Congress must do everything possible to get the relief through and to alert a sadly indifferent world to the carnage that has taken place and to the plight of the millions who are still living--but just barely--in a ruined Cambodia.