PHNOM PENH -- A Japanese volunteer working working with the United Nations electoral operation in Cambodia was shot and killed Thursday during the visit of U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros- Ghali, officials said.
The killing came on the final day of Boutros-Ghali's two-day visit to Cambodia to examine the United Nations' largest peacekeeping operation.
'I am very sad and angry to have to report the violent death of another UNTAC member,' spokesman for the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia, Eric Falt said.
The 25-year-old volunteer from Japan, who was not identified, was fatally shot by unknown attackers on the second day of the Cambodian electoral campaign, Falt said.
Six U.N. personnel have been killed in hostile action in the past 12 days, although none had died during the previous year of the UNTAC operation, suggesting an escalation of violence against the United Nations presence.
'The U.N. volunteers are the best,' Falt said. 'They are spread throughout Cambodia in small groups and are defenseless against such cowardly attacks.
UNTAC, which is headed by Japanese diplomat Yasushi Akashi, has nearly 21,000 personnel, including 15,000 military peacekeepers, and the 630 electoral volunteers. The volunteers have played a significant role in registering voters and preparing for the May 23 national elections.
Boutros-Ghali, in Cambodia to help begin oversight of U.N.-sponsored election campaigns, said the May 23 poll would be held as scheduled despite the recent wave of violence against U.N. peacekeepers.
'Despite difficulties and setbacks, our determination has not weakened,' Boutros-Ghali said Wednesday upon his arrival.
'I deplore these assassinations because U.N. forces are here to provide peace,' Boutros-Ghali said after a meeting at the royal palace in Phnom Penh with the four faction leaders.
Included in that group was Khieu Samphan of the Khmer Rouge, which has been blamed for the murders.
The pre-election period has been marked by attacks on political party offices and members, grenade explosions in Phnom Penh and the massacre of Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia.
'UNTAC will deploy its military personnel and police in order to protect the voters and the electoral agents, as well as to guard ballot (stations) to ensure voting is in complete security,' Boutros-Ghali said.
Security in Phnom Penh was stepped up for the visit of the Secretary General who will also hold discussions with head of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk.
Just hours before Boutros-Ghali touched down the Khmer Rouge reiterated its stance that it would not accept the result of the election which will climax the U.N.'s largest ever peacekeeping operation.
Khmer Rouge spokesman Mak Ben would not say whether the guerrilla group would disrupt the election campaign.
'This 'UNTACist' election aims to give the cloak of legality to the occupation of Cambodia by Vietnam,' he said. 'To enter this kind of election would be a farce,' Mak Ben said.
The Khmer Rouge is refusing to co-operate with the U.N. or take part in the election, until UNTAC verifies the complete withdrawal of all Vietnamese from Cambodia.
The guerillas maintain that the present government, installed by the Vietnamese in 1979 when they drove the Khmer Rouge from power, is still a 'puppet' of Hanoi and that Vietnamese troops operate within the government's army.
Mak Ben accused the U.N. of failing to implement the Paris Peace Agreement, signed between the government and three resistance forces in October 1991, and said there was 'complete lack of neutral political environment.'
The U.N. chief in Cambodia, Yasushi Akashi, has several times recently expressed concern that the current political environment is not neutral and has called on the government to exert a tighter grip on security.