Peace ac­cords a ‘ghost’: PM

Amid po­lit­i­cal ten­sion, pre­mier dis­misses treaty that es­tab­lished democ­racy

The Phnom Penh Post - - FRONT PAGE - Ben Sokhean and Erin Han­d­ley

PRIME Min­is­ter Hun Sen yes­ter­day said the 1991 Paris Peace Ac­cords – of­ten held up as the found­ing doc­u­ment that brought peace, democ­racy and hu­man rights to mod- ern Cam­bo­dia – was dead in the wa­ter.

Speak­ing to some 20,000 fac­tory work­ers in Ph­nom Penh yes­ter­day against the back­drop of the most ag­gres­sive crack­down on the op­po­si­tion in years, the pre­mier told the be­lea­guered Cam­bo­dia Na- tional Res­cue Party and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to stop “dream­ing” and hark­ing back to the ideals en­shrined in the agree­ment.

The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, he ad­mon­ished, will not be solved by talk­ing.

“Don’t imag­ine you can hold a meet­ing like the Paris Peace con­fer­ence again be­cause the Paris Peace agree­ment is like a ghost,” he said.

The agree­ment, which was painstak­ingly put to­gether in a bid 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.

Hun Sen, how­ever, said the agree­ment held lit­tle rel­e­vance

25 years on, in part be­cause the Soviet Union – one of more than a dozen sig­na­to­ries to the treaty – had dis­banded.

The Kh­mer Rouge – which was still a for­mi­da­ble armed force in the 1990s – was also out of the pic­ture now, so the agree­ment was use­less “un­less the Kh­mer Rouge re­turns”, he added.

The pre­mier then went on to take a swipe at the ap­par­ent hypocrisy of the United States and the United Na­tions, call­ing “shame” on the lat­ter for con­tin­u­ing to recog­nise the mur­der­ous Kh­mer Rouge – rather than his own band of Viet­namese-backed Kh­mer Rouge de­fec­tors – as the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment of Cam­bo­dia through­out the 1980s.

“Now we just use the law to pro­tect the . . . se­cu­rity and peace of our coun­try, but they said that we vi­o­late hu­man rights. But [the US] shot, killed and dropped bombs on our peo­ple,” Hun Sen said, echo­ing a fa­mil­iar re­frain of his of­ten dis­cur­sive speeches over the past 12 months.

He main­tained the gov­ern­ment had fol­lowed the agree­ment and “all the el­e­ments have been merged in the con­sti­tu­tion of Cam­bo­dia al­ready”, but it was his sym­bolic at­tack on the land­mark ac­cord that con­cerned the op­po­si­tion and an­a­lysts yes­ter­day.

Cam­bo­dia National Res­cue Party Deputy Pres­i­dent Mu Sochua, speak­ing from Ber­lin yes­ter­day after flee­ing Cam­bo­dia last week to avoid im­mi­nent ar­rest, said the peace and prin­ci­ples en­shrined in the agree­ment were not dead but were un­der threat.

“We don’t want to go back to the Kh­mer Rouge years – that is why we con­tinue to use the Paris Peace agree­ment. As long as there aren’t free and fair elec­tions the con­sti­tu­tion is vi­o­lated,” she said, re­fer­ring to draft amend­ments leaked yes­ter­day that would re­dis­tribute her party’s seats to smaller par­ties that col­lec­tively won lit­tle more than 6 per­cent of the pop­u­lar vote at the last national elec­tion.

“This is such a bla­tant, bla­tant rob­bing of the con­sti­tu­tion,” she said.

“[For] the peo­ple of Cam­bo­dia right now, the si­lenc­ing, the fear, the in­tim­i­da­tion – that is rem­i­nis­cent of years past.”

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Lao Mong Hay said the agree­ment still held rel­e­vance, and sug­gested that the pow­ers that be in Cam­bo­dia had done the op­po­site of im­ple­ment­ing hu­man rights and mul­ti­party democ­racy by rewrit­ing laws to le­git­imise po­lit­i­cal purges.

“In this agree­ment, first, it de­ter­mines to [adopt] mul­ti­party democ­racy. Sec- ond, the regime needs to re­spect the hu­man rights and rule of law – the rule of law in the demo­cratic so­ci­ety, not the com­mu­nist one, [which] is wrong,” he said, liken­ing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion to “the rule of law in a com­mu­nist state”.

Paris was con­tentious from the out­set – par­tic­u­larly the in­clu­sion of the Kh­mer Rouge, who over­saw the death of at least 1.7 mil­lion peo­ple – and its im­pact has been ques­tioned re­peat­edly over the past quar­ter cen­tury.

Aus­tralian scholar Lee Mor­genbesser claims the deal was dead in 1997, when Hun Sen – then Sec­ond Prime Min­is­ter to Func­in­pec’s Prince Norodom Ra­nariddh – launched a bloody coup to seize con­trol of the coun­try. The vi­o­lence 20 years ago, ob­servers ar­gue, left the 1991 Paris Peace Ac­cords in tat­ters.

Just last year, Hu­man Right­sWatch Asia Direc­tor Brad Adams opined that the 25th an­niver­sary of the agree­ment re­quired a re­quiem, not a cel­e­bra­tion.

In an article for the now-shut­tered Cam­bo­dia Daily, he wrote “the leader of the op­po­si­tion is in ex­ile, politi­cians and hu­man rights ac­tivists are in prison, and dis­si­dents con­tinue to be killed . . .Why did Paris fail to de­liver democ­racy and hu­man rights?

“Hun Sen has con­sis­tently bro­ken the fun­da­men­tal prom­ise of Paris: that the coun­try’s fu­ture would be de­cided by bal­lots in­stead of bul­lets.”

Se­bas­tian Stran­gio, au­thor of Hun Sen’s Cam­bo­dia, pointed out the armed Cam­bo­dian fac­tions were “pressed to the ta­ble” to sign on the dot­ted line.

“The CPP played along with Paris, they played along with the sys­tem of democ­racy, but now that they are no longer re­liant on West­ern aid, they are start­ing to be much more open about their dis­taste for this set­tle­ment and their de­sire to un­pick what re­mains of its legacy,” he said.

“The gov­ern­ment made this ar­gu­ment be­fore, and tended to make it in a more sub­tle way . . . but he’s com­ing out and giv­ing vent to a deeply rooted anger about per­ceivedWestern dou­ble stan­dards and treat­ment of Cam­bo­dia in the 1980s.”

He added what made Hun Sen and the rul­ing party’s lat­est crack­down on the op­po­si­tion dif­fer­ent to their pre-elec­tion strat­egy in the past – after the 1997 fight­ing, for in­stance, Ra­nariddh was coaxed back to join the 1998 elec­tions, and the flow of for­eign funds re­sumed – was a “sense of per­ma­nence”.

“It sym­bol­ises a full re­pu­di­a­tion of the Paris agree­ment and the prin­ci­ples they es­pouse. It re­ally is an ex­cla­ma­tion mark on the po­lit­i­cal crack­down that has es­ca­lated sig­nif­i­cantly over the past two or three months.

“The gov­ern­ment is con­tin­u­ing to tighten the screws on the op­po­si­tion, which at a cer­tain point they’ll relax, but over time with this cy­cle of re­pres­sion, we have seen a steady shift to more open forms of au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

GER­ARD FOUET/AFP

Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen signs the Paris Peace Ac­cords in 1991, end­ing 21 years of civil war in Cam­bo­dia.

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