The Paris Peace Agreements Did Not Outline a Democracy that Suits Cambodia, FM Tells Ambassadors

FM Prak Sokhonn delivers his speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the agreements that took place on Oct. 23, 1991. Photo: Facebook.

In their messages, several ambassadors to Cambodia point out that the country must respect these agreements

PHNOM PENH--Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said on Oct. 23 that the Paris Peace Agreements, which put an end to 20 years of war and conflicts in the country in 1991, meant to establish a Western-style democracy that does not fit the country’s context.  

In his speech commemorating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the agreements that took place on Oct. 23, 1991, Sokhonn recognized the importance of the document and especially the fact that it enabled the various Cambodian factions to reintegrate the country’s community.

However, in spite of its many positive accomplishments, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which was established following the agreement, failed to bring complete peace to the country, Sokhonn said—the Khmer Rouge continued to wage war until their final surrender in late 1998.  

The Democracy Envisioned in the Agreements Did Not Suit Cambodia, Prak Sokhonn said

Speaking at a forum attended by ambassadors and the diplomatic corps in Cambodia, Sokhonn said that plans to establish a democracy in the country outlined in the agreements did not fit the country’s context.  

“[The democracy outlined] was a Western-style democracy that did not carefully take into account the special characteristics of the country, which included its historical trauma, culture, traditions as well as other actual conditions on the ground,” Sokhonn told the audience at the forum.

Democracy does not materialize by itself, doesn’t appear out of thin air, he said. “It certainly cannot be imported or exported from one country to another, irrespective of the associated cost.” Sokhonn went on to say that some major powers have been using human rights and democracy as tools to serve their own geopolitical agendas.

Signed by 19 signatories on Oct. 23, 1991, the Paris Peace Agreements were meant to put an end to war between the Cambodian-government forces and those of the Cambodian factions based along the border in Thailand. The document paved the way for the country to become a multi-party democracy and hold democratic national elections, which was organized by the United Nations and took place in May 1993.

 The Cambodian government upholds human rights and democratic principles, Prak Sokhonn stressed at the forum, adding that the country continues to be strongly committed to sustaining fundamental human rights and democratic principles while putting the emphasis on the right to life. 

“Cambodia will also remain an open country, which provides freedom and protection to all who live and enjoy this society, respectful of the law and equal rights of all people,” he said, adding that the country is firmly committed to supporting and contributing to the attainment of global peace, security, stability and prosperity.

Speaking of COVID-19, Sokhonn said that the government will meet its responsibilities toward its citizens by putting its efforts into protecting their basic and fundamental rights, starting with the right to life and the right to healthcare during the pandemic.

Pointing out that the Cambodian health authorities have managed to vaccinate over 85 percent of the population, he said, “[i]t is to save the lives of our citizens and creating a conducive environment for them to return to work, for our children and grandchildren to go back to school, and for our businesses to resume normalcy.”

Congratulatory Messages from Embassies Point out Democratic Principles Mentioned in the Agreements

As Cambodia celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, many foreign diplomats, and especially those representing the signatories of the agreement, sent messages to the Cambodian government.

“Russia was among the first nations to support Cambodia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime,” Russian Ambassador Anatoly Borovik said on his official Twitter page, referring to the fact that the former Soviet Union provided aid to Cambodia during the 1980s while China and countries of the Western Bloc did not recognize the country’s Phnom Penh government.

“I was personally involved in the [peace agreement] process,” Borovik said. “However, it is important to highlight that today's peace and development are not solely the outcomes of the Paris Peace Agreements.”

While congratulating Cambodia for its accomplishments over the last three decades, several ambassadors pointed out that the agreements called for democratic principles that were later reflected in Cambodia’s constitution and must be respected today.  

In her statement, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements established principles to assist Cambodia to achieve a free and fair democracy based on the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

Having played a role in helping Cambodia reach this peace settlement, she said, “Australia remains committed to these principles, and committed to all Cambodians who seek to safeguard them.”

United States Ambassador Patrick Murphy wrote on his official Twitter page that the Paris Peace Agreements put Cambodia on a path to peace, stability and prosperity 30 years ago. “The United States stands with the Cambodian people in supporting their sustained aspirations for an inclusive, multi-party democracy that protects human rights,” he wrote.

United Kingdom Ambassador Tina Redshaw congratulated Cambodia for the progress made over the past three decades. In an official statement on Facebook, she called on the government to ensure space for political rights in the country in accordance with the spirit of the agreements. “I encourage the government of Cambodia to reinvigorate the ambition of the agreements and Cambodian Constitution to ensure the Cambodian people have the right to determine their own political future,” she wrote.  

In an official message on Twitter, the French Embassy wrote that France pledged to continue assisting Cambodia to strengthen its democratic institutions and pursue its development.

And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan congratulated the Cambodian government for, its release read, “achieving peace and for the remarkable economic development over the past 30 years.

“Japan hopes that Cambodia, standing firm on the principles enshrined in the Paris Peace Agreements and the Kingdom’s Constitution, will continue its development for years to come,” the text read.






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