While commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, the government reaffirmed commitment to embracing and defending the country’s independence, sovereignty, neutrality and territorial integrity as stated in the accord and established in the nation’s Constitution.
Marking the anniversary, Prime Minister Hun Sen recalled his win-win strategy that eventually brought about full peace and prosperity after decades of civil war and factional conflict.
Hun Sen noted that on October 23, 1991, four Cambodian factions signed peace accords in Paris in the presence of eyewitnesses from 18 countries and with the full support of the UN to bring an end to civil war in Cambodia.
The four parties, he said, consisted of himself representing the Cambodian government; FUNCINPEC movement represented by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh; Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF) represented by the late Son San; and Democratic Kampuchea represented by its general secretary Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge's Brother Number Four.
Before reaching the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, Hun Sen said he met with the late King Father on December 2, 1987, for a negotiation at Fere-en-Tardenois in northern France where they eventually signed a joint communique dubbed the Sihanouk-Hun Sen Fere-en-Tardenois Negotiation December 2-4, 1987.
The prime minister said it was followed by another Sihanouk-Hun Sen negotiation on January 20-21, 1988, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and other places in France.
Despite the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, 1991, Hun Sen said civil war in Cambodia had dragged on between government forces and the Democratic Kampuchea side led by Pol Pot.
“Under Hun Sen’s win-win strategy, the civil war came to an end in 1998 when Cambodia achieved full peace and prosperity until today,” he said.
In commemorating the 30th anniversary, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn delivered a lengthy speech at the Peace Palace, elaborating upon the historical background of the agreement and outlined some of the challenges that lay ahead for the nation.
“The Paris Peace Agreements undoubtedly constituted a positive turning point in our history,” he said.
Sokhonn said the accords enabled Cambodia to reintegrate into the international community and reclaim its seat at the UN following the establishment of a government under the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)-sponsored election in 1993.
The UN seat had been occupied by the Khmer Rouge for 10 years despite their having been driven from power and the known credible accusations against them for crimes against humanity.
Although it did have many positive achievements, Sokhonn said UNTAC left Cambodia with one principal objective unfulfilled – a complete peace in the country.
After UNTAC’s departure, Cambodia remained divided into two occupied zones – one under the government and the other under the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot.
Sokhonn said it is now widely recognised that it was Hun Sen’s leadership and his win-win policy that eventually brought about peace, national reconciliation and a unified Cambodia.
“He [Hun Sen] put an end to the political and military movement of the Khmer Rouge which was responsible for the deaths of over two million people and for the widespread destruction of the country’s social and physical infrastructure that took place while they were in power.
“With the win-win policy, Cambodia finally secured peace and reconciliation, which lies at the heart of the Paris accord and which UNTAC had failed to accomplish,” Sokhonn said.
According to the foreign minister, another legacy of the Paris Peace Agreements was the establishment of democracy in Cambodia, but he said Cambodian democracy does not have to be western-style democracy, explaining that the special characteristics of the country need to be taken into account.
He further elaborated that democracy cannot be imported or exported from one country to another, irrespective of the associated cost or the resources invested.
Sokhonn cited a related international agreement called the “Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia”, which was made to ensure that Cambodia’s internal affairs would not be interfered with – directly or indirectly – for any reason.
Despite the international agreement, Cambodia continues to witness attempts at regime change through undemocratic approaches, Sokhonn said without providing further elaboration.
Thirty years after the Paris Peace Agreements, Sokhonn said Cambodia has become a highly responsible actor on the international stage and a full member of the international community with equal status and rights under a government that is fully accountable to citizens, particularly for shaping a future for the people that is peaceful, stable, dignified and focused on continued development.
“Cambodia has maintained obligations under the Constitution to promote and uphold core values and interests as reflected in its national and international policies.
“Cambodia will embrace and defend independence, sovereignty, permanent neutrality, and territorial integrity, while being firmly committed to fulfilling all international duties, both in the region and in the world at large,” he said.
The minister said Cambodia will remain an open country that provides freedom and protection to all those who choose to live here and enjoy society while being respectful of the law and the rights of all people equally.
He also said the Kingdom will strive to support and contribute to the attainment of global peace, security, stability and prosperity.
“Based on the principle of ‘fostering friendships abroad while maintaining Cambodia’s independent spirit at home’, we will continue to show the world that we are, indeed, a small country with a big heart,” he said
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Paris peace accords, Cambodia issued a new 30,000 riel ($7.50) denomination banknote featuring a portrait of the late King Father and the prime minister.
A number of foreign diplomats – particularly those from the 18 nations that were signatories to the Paris Peace Agreements 30 years ago – sent official messages of congratulations for the anniversary.
“The United States stands with the Cambodian people in supporting their sustained aspirations for an inclusive, multi-party democracy that protects human rights,” tweeted US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy.
Another signatory nation, Canada, reaffirmed its commitment to the peace treaty and its underlying principles.
“Canada is honoured to stand alongside the Cambodian people in supporting the principles of the Paris Peace Agreements and to work together so that they are always respected,” the Canadian embassy tweeted.
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said her country was proud of the important role it played in helping Cambodia reach a peace settlement and that it remains committed to the principles of the peace accord and committed to supporting all Cambodians who seek to safeguard them.
Likewise, the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh congratulated the Cambodian government and people for achieving peace and remarkable economic development over the past 30 years.
“Japan hopes that Cambodia, standing firm on the principles enshrined in the Paris Peace Agreements and in the Kingdom’s Constitution, will continue its rapid development for years to come as we endeavour to work closely with the country, expanding bilateral cooperation and addressing various issues together in the region and beyond,” the embassy said in a press statement.