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PM reflects on Paris Peace Accords, three decades on

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Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) and the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk hold hands during a parade as the latter returned to Cambodia following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991. SPM

PM reflects on Paris Peace Accords, three decades on

Cambodia on October 23 commemorated the 31st anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, which paved the way towards ending the civil war in Cambodia and unifying the country under the current government.

Prime Minister Hun Sen recalled the historic event and discussed the process which led to the accords.

He said that 31 years ago on October 23, 1991, the four parties to the agreement met in Paris, with himself representing the Cambodian government, the FUNCINPEC movement represented by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and the late Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) represented by the late Son San, and the Democratic Kampuchea regime of the Khmer Rouge represented by its general secretary Khieu Samphan.

The agreement that they eventually reached through negotiations to end the civil war in Cambodia was signed in Paris and witnessed by 18 countries, along with the participation of the UN.

Before reaching the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, Hun Sen said he had earlier met for negotiations with the late King Father on December 2, 1987 at Fere-en-Tardenois in northern France, where they eventually signed a joint communique dubbed the “Sihanouk-Hun Sen Fere-en-Tardenois Negotiation December 2-4, 1987”.

The premier said it was followed by another Sihanouk-Hun Sen negotiating session on January 20-21, 1988, at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and other places in France.

He stressed that although the peace accords were reached on October 23, 1991, the civil war in Cambodia dragged on between government forces and the Khmer Rouge guerillas led by Pol Pot and finally ended completely in late 1998 through his win-win strategy, which eventually saw the Khmer Rouge soldier reintegration.

Speaking to farmers in Banteay Meanchey province where he distributed more than 500 tonnes of rice seeds on October 23, Hun Sen thanked the international community for facilitating the negotiations and signing of the accords.

“The win-win strategy ended Cambodia’s civil war without a single bullet fired and without bloodshed. What Cambodia wanted from the agreements was an end to the civil war, but at that time the UN could not accomplish this.

“The UN just spent $2 billion or more and then left with Cambodia still fractured into many factions, but it was the Khmer Rouge especially that kept fighting the government,” he said, noting that unity through his win-win strategy was finally achieved in December, 1998.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post that to achieve the Paris Peace Accords, the political will of Cambodian politicians was necessary, but it was also important that the process be backed by the international community.

“Looking 31 years back, we have seen that Cambodia has implemented this agreement well, which has led our country to the peace it enjoys today along with development. Now, Cambodia has the honour to be on the international stage in a different capacity,” he said.

He said that the spirit of the agreements had been included in Cambodia’s Constitution which the government has followed thoroughly since 1993 when it was first written.

Peou rejected commentary by some politicians who said that Cambodia has not fully respected the agreements. He said that such views were shortsighted as they did not acknowledge that the spirit of the agreements was in the Constitution itself.

The Cambodian Institute for Democracy, a non-profit independent think tank, said in a statement that the Paris Peace Agreements paved the way to ending armed conflict in Cambodia, which led to unity, territorial integrity, stability, neutrality, respect for human rights and the repatriation of Cambodian refugees.

The institute called on all countries which were signatories to the agreements to ensure that the contents of the accords are fully implemented.

Ambassadors from some of the signatory countries also recalled the event in social media posts.

“Today is the 31st anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, which put Cambodia on a path to peace, stability and prosperity. As a signatory of the agreements, the US stands with the Cambodian people and their aspirations for an inclusive, multiparty democracy that protects rights,” US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy tweeted.

Similarly, Australian ambassador to Cambodia Pablo Kang tweeted: “Australia is proud to have played a key role in brokering the Agreements and in the UNTAC mission that followed,” he said, referring to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia.

“We continue to support the Cambodian people’s aspirations for greater democracy, human rights and pluralism.”

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