The Paris Peace Accords, the agreement signed by Cambodia's four warring factions
in 1991, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a two day convention in Phnom Penh
Among the attendees were Prime Minister Hun Sen, members of the Royal Family, ministers
of the government, foreign diplomats and representatives from civil society. Several
foreign dignitaries were also invited.
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivered the closing address with harsh words for the United
Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC) which oversaw the transition
He said UNTAC had behaved like "armed robbers" and maintained that Cambodians
alone were responsible for the subsequent peace. He added that the body held the
distinction of presiding over "the worst elections in the 20th Century".
Senate President Chea Sim was more amenable in his opening address the previous day.
Sim spoke of the contribution of peace and democracy that the Accords had delivered,
but spoke also of the shortcomings.
"In reality what we have achieved in ten years is not quite perfect and does
not respond totally to the needs of national development," he said. "The
key to strengthening liberal democracy in Cambodia is to speed up the process of
building the Kingdom of Cambodia into a state of law and reform in all fields of
"Social democratization, rural development [and] poverty alleviation [are] immense
tasks which require time and patience... [and] in which human resources development
is the key factor."
Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, provided a typically personal
antidote to the generally self-congratulatory praise of the government speakers.
He expressed his gratitude to the United Nations, but heaped strident criticism on
the government's achievements over the past decade.
Rainsy added the topics of corruption and the state of the economy to the conference's
theme of peace, national reconciliation and democracy building. He warned that real
peace "is deeper in meaning than a cease-fire" and said Cambodia's democracy
should reflect "respect for the minorities".
"Real peace means basic justice in society," he said. "If we refer
to justice, we can see that Cambodia has no real peace. Peace means the omission
of violence. In Cambodian society, violence is everywhere - it has increased. So
is this a real success?"
He said the country's reliance on international aid had made it a beggar among nations
and lambasted corruption among the elite. He closed saying that the government could
have done much more.
Rainsy's criticisms disappointed Dr Kao Kim Huorn, executive director of the Cambodian
Institute for Cooperation and Peace which organized the event.
"I wish he could see some of the positive things. [In Cambodia] today we have
an opposition party, we have a vibrant civil society. Human rights and democracy
are not perfect, but they are pretty good," he said.
"In the last ten years we have gone through the process of national reconciliation
and peace," he said.
"We have gone from less democracy and human rights to more, from a closed society
to a very open society. We have to put things in perspective. We cannot compare Cambodia
to Thailand or the Philippines - we have gone through hell."