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
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
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)