AKP Phnom Penh, At the invitation of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), H.E. Chum Sounry, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United States of America, participated in a public event that was held virtually on October 14, 2021, on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Paris Agreements. Ambassador Chum Sounry delivered the following remarks during this event:

“Let me start by recalling some key historical events leading to the signing of the Paris Accords on Cambodia.

1. The journey towards reaching an agreement was indeed long and started by the first meeting between PM Hun Sen and then Prince Norodom Sihanouk in Fere-en-Tardenois, from 2 to 4 December 1987 that paved the way for subsequent negotiations and the signing of the Paris Agreements.

2. The Paris Accords offered a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodian Conflict. This led to the first general elections in Cambodia in 1993 organised and supervised by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). After the elections, the new Constitution – the achievement of the Paris Agreement – came into being. As a result, Cambodia became a Constitutional monarchy and adhered to liberal pluralist democracy political system.

3. However, the nation had not yet achieved full peace since the Khmer Rouge withdrew from the Paris Agreements and continued to wage war. As a matter of fact, UNTAC did not fulfill what the Paris Agreement was supposed to do. After spending over two billion USD and using a great number of force for the operation in Cambodia, UNTAC withdrew and left Cambodia with two control areas and Governments. War did not end.

4. To settle national problem, PM Hun Sen developed “win-win policy” initiative to ensure peace and national reconciliation. Implementation of the win-win policy ended protracted war in Cambodia and brought about full peace, national and territorial unity at the end of 1998.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

5. Political opponents of the Royal Government of Cambodia, regularly invoke the Paris Agreements to criticise and attack Cambodia. Therefore, I would like to share my Government’s views on the question “Why quoting the Paris Agreements is irrelevant since the UN mission in Cambodia ended on Sep. 24,1993?”. These views, I believe, will shed light on the questions to be raised for discussions later concerning free political environment, commitments made under the PA, the signatories’ current obligations towards these commitments, etc.

With regard to the free political environment,

6. What do we understand by “free political environment”? No doubt that it means, in one word, democracy. Democracy requests a free and fair political debate, a peaceful confrontation on different ideas based on mutual respects. In Cambodia, since 1993, we have tried to comply with these principles, but the government’s will for what we called “a culture of dialog” was betrayed. Because there are people who confuse freedom of expression with freedom to defame and slander, with freedom to call for racial hate, with freedom to publish fake news and fake documents, with freedom to provoke divisions among the nation by exacerbating the very sensitive issues like the legacy of the colonial time about the national territory boundary, with freedom to call the armed forces and the police to make sedition. The government has refused to confuse freedom of expression with freedom of insult or falsification. Like in most of democratic countries we have laws – most of them similar to those in the developed countries that prohibit and punish such crimes.

7. So, the answer to the question is, yes, the space for a free political environment remains in Cambodia for citizens who do respect the law.

Concerning the commitments under the PA,

8. The purpose of the Paris Agreements is the comprehensive political settlement of the Cambodian conflict. This objective appears in the title and the preamble of the Agreements. According to the reports on the negotiations leading to the Agreements, the word “comprehensive” means the participation of the four Parties of the conflict and in particular the inclusion of the Democratic Kampuchea DK – the Khmer Rouge faction – in the settlement.

9. The DK, one of the four signatory Cambodian factions, has defaulted. The failure of one of the signatories to comply with their commitments had dramatic consequences for the objectives pursued by these Agreements: during a transition period, disarmament of the factions, creation of a neutral political environment, promotion of human rights, repatriation of refugees and displaced people, organisation of election, rehabilitation and reconstruction. This withdrawal radically changed the purpose of the Paris Agreements and put an end to the comprehensive character of these political settlement and changed fundamentally the long-negotiated balances and the resulting obligations.

10. The UN mission ended on September 24, 1993. With the end of that mission, it was the end of the commitments provided for by the Agreements. Everyone has his own evaluation of the way these commitments have been implemented.

11. A report of the UN Secretary General S/25289 adopted by the UN Security Council said: “as signatories to the Paris Agreements, the Cambodian parties have the primary responsibility for their implementation and that the future stability and well-being of Cambodia depends on Cambodians themselves. However, it is clear that once the UN mission was over, it was up to the Cambodians to decide how to implement the Paris Agreements?

For the question on the signatories’ current obligations towards the commitments made in the PA,

12. There are no more current obligations under the Paris Agreements. The Agreement on Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia clearly states that Cambodia will maintain its sovereignty and independence once these principles are enshrined in the Constitution.

13. It was never written in the Paris Agreements that Cambodia, after the transition period, that is to say once the United Nations mission ended. would remain under international supervision.

About human rights,

14. In 1992, the Supreme National Council of Cambodia acceded to the relevant UN international human rights instruments. Like all UN member states, Cambodia remains bound by the commitments implied by our membership in the UN.

15. Cambodia, as a full sovereign state, has accepted the presence of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the mandate of a Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia. It has been done not by virtue of an obligation created by the Paris Agreements, which mentioned only the possibility “after the end of the transition period”.

Cambodia is well on track since the end of UN mission

16. Peace, security and political stability bring about gold opportunity unprecedented to Cambodia to score great and proud achievements of socio-economic development in the last two decades. Prior to the pandemic, Cambodia realised an average growth of over 7% per annum. As a result, national economy grows rapidly and healthy. In real, GDP has increased from 3,649 million USD in 2000 to roughly 24,605 million USD in 2018. Based on these economic achievements, living conditions of people in general have gradually improved reflected in increase of average per capita income from 288 USD in 2000 to 1,563 USD in 2018. Poverty rate has lowered from about 53.2% in 2004 to roughly 13.5% in 2014, and expected to continue lowering to around 10% in the present.

17. 30 years ago, the UN has deployed its peacekeepers to assist us. Today, it is our turn to send back our peacekeepers to assist other countries in different parts of the world. Since 2006, Cambodia has deployed over 7,000 peacekeepers for the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Cyprus, Lebanon, Mali, Syria, and Yemen.”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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