The UN’s transitional authority, which occupied Cambodia in the early 1990s, did little for the country except put an election in place in 1993, but failed to end the country’s war, Cambodia’s foreign minister said in recent remarks.
The Paris Peace Accords, in 1991, did not bring full peace to Cambodia, the minister, Hor Namhong, said, during the recent opening of a Cambodian consulate in Lowell, Mass. Hor Namhong praised the efforts of Prime Minister Hun Sen in eventually bringing peace to country.
“The only success of Untac was the national election in 1993,” Hor Namhong said at the April 26 opening of the consulate. “This was a victory for Untac, but Untac failed in its efforts to make the Khmer Rouge guerrillas drop their weapons.”
Untac came to Cambodia in February 1992, following the Paris accords, which ended fighting between four Cambodian factions: the State of Cambodia, the government led by Hun Sen; the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front; the royalist National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia, known by its French acronym, Funcinpec; and the Khmer Rouge, known officially as Democratic Kampuchea.
Under the accords, all parties agreed to compete in elections, but Hor Namhong said the scheme failed to bring peace.
When Untac’s peacekeepers withdrew, in September 1993, “all the Khmer Rouge soldiers were still in the jungle,” he said. “When Untac had completely withdrawn from Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge rebels still fought us.”
Eventually, Prime Minister Hun Sen “set up a win-win policy to integrate those Khmer Rouge soldiers into the Cambodian government,” Hor Namhong said.
Lao Monghay, a former member of the KPNLF who is now a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, said Hor Namhong’s criticism of Untac overlooked the work the peacekeepers did accomplish.
The UN’s efforts brought about civil society, independent media, political parties and other organizations.
In fact, he said, Cambodia enjoyed more rights and freedoms in the years after Untac that it has in the years since Hun Sen led a coup, in 1997, to oust his co-prime minister, Norodom Ranariddh.
Nguon Nhel, a member of the central committee of the Cambodian People’s Party, said in an interview the Khmer Rouge turned away from the accords, despite the efforts of Untac and others.
“After the election in 1993, the Cambodian people were thankful for the Paris agreement and thankful for the presence of Untac, which came to help Cambodia maintain public and social security, in order to enable an election process with multiparty and democratic standards,” he said.
Beyond the elections, said opposition leader Sam Rainsy, the UN and the accords helped oust a Vietnamese force that would have had people living under a communist regime even today.
“I think that we should be grateful to the United Nations and the entire international community, which intervened and pulled Cambodia up from the communist regime and from the Vietnamese invasion,” he said.
The Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge, in January 1979, and began a decade-long occupation that ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Some analysts argue it was the fall of the Soviet Union that necessitated the Paris accords.