Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comment: King warns of keen balance between success and failure

Comment: King warns of keen balance between success and failure

Comment: King warns of keen balance between success and failure

Message from Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia to the World Assembly of the

Foundation for Moral Rearmament, June, July, August 1996, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Heal the wounds of the past - build the future"... More than a simple

slogan, these two noble objectives constitute today the primary preoccupation of

Cambodians, so divided, bruised in their bodies and in their souls, by so many years

of wars.

I have not ceased, for my part, to work for the reconciliation of all my compatriots,

bringing all opinions together in a spirit of transparency, of tolerance, of democratic

dialogue, in the pursuit of peace, of solidarity between rich and poor, of the defense

of fundamental liberties, all objectives conforming to the Charter of the United


The task is not an easy one; the after effects left on spirits and in hearts by more

than two decades of confrontation in a country that has lost a lot of blood, reduced

to the rank of one of the poorest, where all basic infrastructure has been destroyed,

are proving to be enduring ones.

An unatonable conflict continues to pit the Khmer Rouge leadership against its adversaries

- themselves former Khmer Rouge - engendering each year its share of military and

civilian victims: killed, wounded, mutilated by mines notably, this anonymous and

abominable "poor man's weapon".

In our most backward regions, again difficult to access due to the lack of communications

lines, our population survives in a sub-human state exposed permanently to natural

floods, to climatic hazards, and also, to the rapaciousness of small local tyrants.

Development is, alas, too often undertaken in terms of immediate profit, where it

would be necessary and urgent instead to invest for the long term, producing wide-spread

benefits, most particularly in the sectors of rice cultivation, rubber production,

the industries of small-scale, value-added manufacturing and food production, quite

recently eminently profitable, (and) purveyors of budgetary resources in the measure

where these activities would limit our imports, and human equilibrium such that material

is used for demographic sharing.

Yes, I have not ceased calling for national reconciliation, in a spirit of openness

and of respect for people's dignity, but certain clans, more dependent on the practices

of the past rather than (having) a real concern for democratic dialogue, while knowing

how to assume for themselves absolute power, while making a reign of terror, insecurity,

and now come hell or high water the privliges are acquired, on bases of corruption

and lies.

Such it seems is the reality, in this month of May 1996, of the evolution of my so

miserable country, that the signatory powers of the 23 October 1991 Paris Peace Accords,

had the ambition, under the pretence of the U.N., to reunite, to pacify, to reconstruct

and to rehabilitate.

Is it too much to ask to despair of the future? On the occasion of the legislative

elections organised under international control, in May 1993, the Khmer people declared,

by an overwhelming majority, for a return to peace and national reconciliation. "Vox

populi, vox dei" they say in the West. The Khmer people, first and foremost

"the little people", those who are the most humble and helpless of all,

must be able to express themselves again freely, to say clearly and without constraints

which political regime it prefers, to which representatives and leaders they intend

to entrust their destiny and the management, from day to day, of public affairs.

The re-establishment of peace, with dialogue, justice, freedom, and which will be

a lasting one, is everybody's business. In the first place, for my compatriots themselves,

but as well for the international community, the guarantor of this process, for the

network of associations, for the non-governmental organizations, and for the political

parties themselves. From multiple actions undertaken on the ground must, over time,

bear their fruits. Except when considering that there are or will be hindrances by

the forces representing a certain past. It is insufficient to proclaim peace; to

build or to reconstruct constitutes a long drawn-out job , of which all the organizations

and specialised institutions must participate. The Khmer people cannot erradicate

their fears, the evil practices of the past by themselves. To establish a culture

of peace must be the work of everyone.

It is to this realization that I have the honor to invite the honorable and very

esteemed delegates present at this important conference. What will you do, what will

you undertake concretely, in the terms of this conference, to forge in Cambodia a

future of peace and reconciliation? To permit my people to express themselves freely

and to aid in healing the wounds of the past?

I am a King without power who, according to the terms of our Constitution, "reigns

but does not rule." In spite of a state of precarious health, I have invested

all my energy, my moral strength in freeing political prisoners, in improving of

the lot of people incarcerated under inhuman conditions, in defending fundamental

liberties, notably free speech and the press, by improving, by concrete measures,

the conditions of the poorest and weakest, in preserving our eco-systems by denouncing

the excesses of deforestation, by re-developing irrigation canals in rural areas,

(and) by unceasing proclamations to reaffirm priority objectives concerning development,

concerning the preservation and the re-birth of our cultural, archeological, and

nationally historic patrimony, concerning the measures to take to rehabilitate the

education, health and well-being of our population.

Some progress has already been realised, but there remains much to do so that our

country, Cambodia, becomes an authentic State of Law, so that our courts deliver

justice, that freedom of expression can be guaranteed for all, so that peace and

national reconciliation become a reality, so that the consequences of economic development

and the wealth that this produces can be shared by everyone!

Cambodians, a proud people and worthy of a prestigious past, have paid a heavy price

for disagreements which have arisen between the great powers. I have always only

discerned the salvation for my country within a strict respect, international guarantee

of its sovereignty, its territorial integrety, and in an open neutrality. As soon

as this (neutrality) "tilts" towards one side, Cambodia loses control of

its destiny. Again so weak at the institutional level, along with the expolitation

of its natural resources, (the country) risks sinking once again into a colonial

type venture. True national independence in non-alignment and a pluralistic, liberal

democracy: this is, today, the sine qua non condition for the survival and the flowering

as free nations and peoples.

If the international community truly wishes the establishment of a durable peace

in this part of the world, it must listen to these propositions. Since 1992, we have

been indebted to it - but not at any price - for financial aid, importantly and generously

multi-faceted, international and bi-lateral. Our gratitude is on a scale with the

efforts already agreed to and undertaken. It is the responsibility from now on to

direct an active solidarity towards those who, inside Cambodia, understand (how to)

work loyally for the defense and the fulfillment of the aforementioned objectives.

Failing which Cambodia risks reappropriating its old demons and sinking into an incoherence

and chaos which would designate it as "the sick man" of Asia.

I thank you for your kind attention.

(Unofficial Translation from French)


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