Twenty-four years after the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending decades of civil strife in Cambodia, political observers say many of their main tenets remain unfulfilled, especially in the realms of human rights and democracy.
Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, said Cambodia still lacks the institutions to serve citizens, decades after the accords.
“And it would be a danger to the future, if Cambodia can’t figure out how to improve the national institutions to service the people better, respect human rights, respect the will of people by democratic principles,” he said.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for Human Rights Watch, said a “culture of impunity” persists throughout the military and police, while the courts are used to “persecute political opponents and civil right activists.”
“The promises of the Paris Peace Accords, when it comes to human rights, is still unfulfilled in Cambodia, and that‘s a real shame,” he said. “That’s something that the signatories to the Paris Peace Accords should be prominently raising with the government and demanding the government cease abusing human rights in a systematic way.”
In a Facebook announcement Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen noted that he and late King Norodom Sihnaouk ushered in the accords, but critics say that the decades since have not honored them. The government removed the anniversary of the accords from the list of national holidays in 2004 and reinstated it in 2012.
Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst, said there has been some improvement in development, rights and democracy since the accords were signed. But, she said, “it seems slow.” There may be some criticism now, she said, but that is normal in a country recovering from war. “It is not perfect,” she said, but it is better than it was 20 years ago.
Meanwhile, Cambodia faces new issues, like workers’ demands for higher wages, and an education system that needs improved to match the market. For these and other challenges ahead, Cambodia needs its leaders to work harder on unity, she said.