Cambodian civil society groups marked the anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on October 23 by raising concerns over the fall in democratic principles, especially in law enforcement and political rights.
Nongovernment organizations and civil society groups held the event at the new Freedom Park on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on October 23. The event was attended by election monitor Comfrel, rights group Adhoc and workers’ group IDEA, among others.
Pa Chanroeun, director of the Cambodian Center for Applied Philosophy and Ethics, Cambodia had deviated away from the guidelines laid out by the agreement, especially following the 2013 national election.
The 2013 election was contested by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and led to months-long protests till early 2014, which was ended violently by the government. There was also a political crackdown following 2017 commune election, which resulted in the dissolution of the CNRP and banning of its senior members from politics.
He added that Cambodia had seen some developments but that they were made at the expense of respecting human rights, making the progress fragile.
“The economic development will not remain intact if the development is made without justice,” he said.
Chhaem Thida, 21, a four-year-student at the Royal University of Law and Economic, said the biggest deviation from the peace accords was equitable law enforcement.
“As we are aware that we have our own law but we still lack of the enforcement,” she said. “Our people are not happy, and they also live in difficulties with injustices or other things.”
Representatives of various rural groups affected by land disputes also spoke at the event. Land disputes, especially linked to economic land concessions, have plagued Cambodia’s rural areas.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier in the week asked Cambodians to focus on the Constitution because the peace accords were now voided, with political commentators saying Cambodia was still governed by the principles set out in the agreement.
Michael Newbill, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh, also attended the event but declined to comment on his participation.
To mark the singing of the accords, the U.S. embassy posted a message on its Facebook. “Today, Cambodia commemorates a 1991 commitment made to its citizens to protect their rights and fundamental freedoms, institute multi-party democracy, and ensure its sovereignty,” it read.