Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said the Paris Peace Agreement was no longer applicable following the adoption of the Cambodian Constitution, though critics say the country is still bound by the principles of the peace accords.
October 23 marks the 28th anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement that saw four conflicting factions agreeing to the establishment of a democratic country under the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia (UNTAC).
Speaking in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said that Cambodians should focus and respect the constitution of Cambodia, which superseded the peace agreement following the dissolution of UNTAC in 1993.
He argued that if Cambodia were still under the peace accords, Khmer Rouge members should be freed because the accords did not call for the arrest of those responsible for mass killings between 1975 and 1979.
“If you want to implement the Paris Agreement, then you must release Khieu Samphan. The Paris agreement doesn’t call for the conviction of Khmer Rouge members,” he said, referring to the senior member of the regime who has been convicted of crimes against humanity.
The eventual surrender of the Khmer Rouge and arrest of its senior leaders happened much after the peace accords were signed in 1991, where the brutal regime was one of the four major parties. Hun Sen argued that invocation of the 1991 agreement should nullify any resulting developments.
However, political observers said the government was still expected to uphold the rights and principles promised in the Paris Peace Agreement, an expectation the administration had failed to uphold so far.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved in 2017, has routinely used the anniversary to call on signatory nations to push the Cambodian government to respect its principles.
Yesterday, political commentator Lao Mong Hay said Cambodia was still bound by the agreement and the government needed to officially inform all stakeholders if it decided to void the accords.
He added that it was clear the government had failed to comply with the spirit of the accords, as evidenced by the current court system.
“This is a big failure because the courts are a key element. For the Paris Agreement, it says that there must be independent courts to implement human rights,” he said.
The agreement’s anniversary coincides with a government crackdown on the political opposition, linked to the purported return of opposition leader Sam Rainsy on November 9. More than 50 people have been arrested for allegedly attempting a coup, where the government has called Sam Rainsy’s return an attempt to topple the administration.