The current visit to Cambodia by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon constitutes a unique opportunity to take stock of the UN legacy to Cambodia since the international body got involved in the conclusion of the Paris Agreement on Cambodia in 1991 and subsequently exercised, in the framework of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, the “powers to ensure the implementation of this Agreement, including those relating to the organization and conduct of free and fair elections and the relevant aspects of the administration of Cambodia” during the transitional period (1991-1993).
Because the foundations of a modern and democratic state were laid during that crucial transitional period, Cambodia should be grateful to the UN for its pivotal role during that nation-building chapter of its history. UNTAC’s work must be praised given the difficult environment and specific circumstances in which it was achieved. The UN legacy is, overall, definitely positive.
As a member of the Supreme National Council (representing Funcincec after then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk was appointed SNC President), I had the opportunity to work with UNTAC and its head Mr Yasushi Akashi and to realize the delicate balance they had to strike every day during the transitional period.
Cambodia would not be where it stands now without the benefit of the UN legacy.
Unfortunately, everything does not remain positive, and we have to deplore the fact that the UN legacy has been spoiled or perverted in a number of instances. This perversion relates mainly to legislation made in 1992, namely the UNTAC criminal code, which is still in force. Some provisions of the UNTAC law are being misused by the present Cambodian government to commit abuses on government critics, in violation of fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the UN during the transitional period.
Several journalists and civil society activists have been imprisoned in the last few years, and other government critics, including parliamentarians, have been forced to pay heavy fines on the basis of Article 63 of the UNTAC law on “defamation”.
No longer than last month, I was sentenced to 12 years in prison on the basis of Articles 49 and 62 of the same UNTAC law, respectively for “forgery of public document” and “disinformation”.
The government and ruling party try to justify their judicial crackdown on political opponents by claiming legitimacy from the fact they are “only using laws made under the authority of the United Nations” nearly 20 years ago .
In fact, those UN officers who contributed to produce that UNTAC law in 1992 would have never imagined it would be used in such a perverted manner.
To clear the UN responsibility and possibly moral conscience on the face of this perversion and travesty of justice, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should let the public here know that the UN condemns the way the Cambodian government has been trying to justify the unjustifiable by tracing back to the UN, laws that are just wrongfully interpreted and applied to conduct an unacceptable political repression.
Member of Parliament