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Hun Sen: Peace brought by Khmers, not ‘foreign hands’

Prime Minister Hun Sen signs the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, ending 21 years of civil war in Cambodia. The premier on Monday said UNTAC and the accords were wrongly credited for bringing peace to the country, instead it was his 'win-win' policy that helped end the country's infighting. Gerard Fouet/AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen signs the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, ending 21 years of civil war in Cambodia. The premier on Monday said UNTAC and the accords were wrongly credited for bringing peace to the country, pointing instead to his 'win-win' policy as helping to end the country's infighting. Gerard Fouet/AFP

Hun Sen: Peace brought by Khmers, not ‘foreign hands’

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday rejected the idea that “foreign hands” or assistance secured a resolution to Cambodia’s civil war in the early 1990s, warning historians to refrain from claiming the international community was responsible for peace-building in the country.

Speaking at the groundbreaking of a new road in Battambang on Monday morning, Hun Sen said foreign historians had overstated the benefits of the $2 billion United Nations mission to turn Cambodia into a multiparty democracy in 1992 following the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement.

“For this point, the historians should be aware, and most of the historians are foreigners, they write only from a [foreign] perspective. They do not mention about Cambodia’s role even once,” he said.

“[They] should not forget the final stages when the war was completely ended by Cambodian hands, not foreign hands.”

The agreement, which was painstakingly crafted to end the country’s civil war and extract foreign influence from the Kingdom in a waning era of Cold War realpolitik, pushed for a government to be elected through democratic polls and espoused the ideals of human rights.

The 1991 accords marked the first time four warring factions came together. They were the Vietnamese-backed Hun Sen government, the Khmer Rouge, a faction led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk and the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, a conservative group headed by Son Sann.

French army paratroopers stand at attention as local people watch the ceremony marking the full deployment of French Untac peacekeeping troops in 1992. Stefan Ellis/AFP
French army paratroopers stand at attention as local people watch the ceremony marking the full deployment of French Untac peacekeeping troops in 1992. Stefan Ellis/AFP

Overseeing the rebuilding effort was the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac), which organised the first elections in 1993 and spent more than a billion dollars to administer a peacekeeping mission in the Kingdom.

“They write only about the Paris Peace Agreement and the implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement, but they have not written about who brought the last peace,” Hun Sen said, referring to the CPP-run government and his own “Win-Win Policy”, which brought former Khmer Rouge guerrillas into the government fold.

Read more: Hun Sen says he, not Untac, brought peace to Cambodia in 90s

While the premier has publicly questioned the usefulness of the peace agreement, its tenets of multiparty democracy and human rights have long been a rallying cry for the opposition, which was forcibly dissolved by the Supreme Court at the government’s behest last year. The move resulted in near-universal condemnation and concerns over the Kingdom’s democratic credentials.

Political commentator Lao Mong Hay said that without the peace accords or Untac’s intervention, the four factions would have continued to fight, and that it was indeed foreign intervention in the 1990s that led to the increased sidelining of the Khmer Rouge.

Still, he said, “Our prime minister’s Win-Win [Policy] to completely end the war was a valuable finishing touch to kill off the already weak Khmer Rouge”.

Analyst Meas Nee, meanwhile, said that while much of the country’s history had indeed been documented by foreign academics, many of them are considered to be independent and reliable.

“Because it has been done independently and with scientific evidence, but when it is written by Cambodians, some have written it in favour of the government and whoever ruled the country,” he said.

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