October 25, 2023
PHNOM PENH – As October 23 marks the anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, Prime Minister Hun Manet used the occasion to highlight how it is possible to end conflict through peace talks, rather than the continued use of force.
He issued a statement via social media on October 22, the day before the 23rd anniversary of the accords, signed in 1991.
His post was accompanied by a 30-minute documentary explaining the significance of the agreements, and how they came about.
According to the documentary, the accords had brought an end to over 500 years of chronic conflict in Cambodia, by eventually securing peace and ending the bloody fighting. The agreements were initiated by the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“No war can ever come to an end by the use of arms, but must be brought to an end through negotiations in pursuit of peace,” said Manet.
Former Minister of National Defence Tea Banh, who accompanied Hun Sen to the peace talks in Paris, said on October 22 that the road to drawing up the Paris agreements was a long, hard journey, and one that would not have been possible without the will for peace of Cambodia itself. Out of necessity, the talks brought all parties to the conflict to the table.
“The Paris agreements were part of fulfilling our mission to bring peace to Cambodia, particularly through taking steps to secure a comprehensive peace through the implementation of [Hun Sen’s] win-win policy,” he said.
Tea Banh recounted that the agreements demonstrated the goodwill of each of the parties to the conflict in building peace, particularly the then-State of Cambodia (SOC) regime, which was committed to ending the conflict through peace talks rather than the use of firearms. The agreements also served as the gateway to the intervention of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) from 1991-1993.
At the time, 18 countries were signatories to the Paris agreements, along with four Cambodian signatories – the SOC led by Hun Sen, FUNCINPEC led by then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF) led by Son Sann, and the Khmer Rouge.
The four factions formed the Supreme National Council (SNC), which was recognised by the UN.
The Paris accords included the Agreement on the Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, the Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia, and the Declaration on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia.
Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the agreements had made a vast contribution to bringing peace to the country. They reconciled the differences between all factions, and all parties – particularly the late King Father and Hun Sen – eventually brought an end to the tragedy wars that had enveloped the Cambodian people.
He said the journey towards the peace agreements began as early as 1987, when peace talks were first held in coordination with several foreign states from the ASEAN region, as well as the superpowers, who had just concluded the Cold War.
“Without the Paris Peace Agreements, there would be no modern Cambodia. It may have continued to be torn apart by war, with no negotiations. These agreements teach the new generation of Cambodians that only when Khmer show solidarity for one another can we accomplish big things,” he added.
Peou explained that the agreements still play a large part in informing government policy, especially through the Cambodian Constitution, which contains the essence of the agreements.
Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun described the accords as being of “international value”. They served as mechanisms to bring an end to the conflict between Khmer and Khmer, as well as Khmer and some foreigners. This was done for the sake of Cambodia’s national unity, territorial integrity and independence, as well as human rights principles.
He said the agreements turned a historic new page in the modernisation of the Kingdom, paving the way for development.
“Several smaller agreements had already been implemented, but all of the countries that were signatories to the Paris Peace Accords helped Cambodia obtain peace, national unification and neutrality,” he added.
Srun Sron, a well-known advocate of the agreements, said they were of vital value in drawing a curtain over the shadow of the much-despised regime of the then-Democratic Kampuchea led by the Khmer Rouge, and the other tragic events of the past.
He said they also ushered in a new era for the political regime of the SOC, and set it on a path to democracy and the 1993 implementation of the Constitution.
Finally, he added, they guaranteed the territorial integrity of Cambodia, defended the present sovereign jurisdiction and served as mechanisms for laying claim to lands that had been invaded by foreign powers.
“These documents serve as a guidebook for all Khmer. We should express our gratitude for the courage of those who navigated Cambodia to them. Now, and into the future, the agreements are legal documents which defend Khmer land against foreign aggression and promote harmony with the international community,” he added.