Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Today, it is my honor and pleasure to participate in the closing of this “Open Academic Forum on the General Agreement on Political Resolution in Cambodia” to commemorate the Fifteen Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord. In this auspicious occasion, may I congratulate and highly appreciate the Cambodia Institute for International Relations for the organization of such an important and beneficial open forum sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Conrad Adenauer Foundation.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my warmest thanks to the distinguished national and international guests, to all Cambodian friends, and bilateral and multilateral development partners who present here to commemorate the Fifteen Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord. Indeed, your contribution, both in terms of time and knowledge devoted to and your presence in this “Open Academic Forum”, is very much valuable not only to witness the efforts made in overcoming all the difficult challenges on the path of development and poverty reduction during the past 15 years after the Paris Peace Accord but also to highlight future prospects and share best ideas on how to keep Cambodia on the right track toward progress and prosperity.
This Open Academic Forum on the General Agreement on Political Resolution in Cambodia, commemorating the Fifteen Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord, happens in a situation where Cambodia has very actively moved on negotiations and national reconciliation, reaching territorial integrity and firm foundations for democracy and respect for human rights in Cambodia, and the country is now poised to develop itself into a prosperous nation.
In fact, though we are living in a very difficult time when the world is full of challenges resulted from terrorism, chaos, wars, epidemic diseases and serious natural disasters across the globe, Cambodia has been making steady progress and has produced many achievements. Specifically, in the last 10 years, Cambodia has gone through a quick transformation not only in political and security aspects but also in social and economic dimensions. Clearly, peaceful resolution, patience, concession, accommodation and mutual understanding are key to resolving Cambodian conflicts, and those solutions have opened up opportunities for economic and social development. Cambodian people themselves are aware of the virtue of accommodation and concession. These sacraments form the foundations of our “Win-Win” policy.
I remember that, in October 2001, I delivered a keynote address in the Commemorative Ceremony of the Tenth Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord. At that time, I revealed some of the historical secrets related to the negotiations process and the implementation of peace agreement. I believe that the keynote address is of utmost importance to historians and political analysts who are interested in Cambodian politics. Indeed, as one of the leaders who initiated the negotiations for peace and participated deeply in all aspects of negotiation and implementation of this peace agreement, I have in in my hands all the details related to this process. Those information are extremely sensitive that I cannot reveal them now, though they are all about important historical events and played the key role for the success of the peace process. I have compiled all these information and intend to write up this complicated history of politics in the future to serve as reference for researchers and the public.
Nevertheless, I think it is also very important for me to recall some events and reasons why Cambodia could reach an agreement on national reconciliation and development. I clearly remember that the search for resolution of Cambodia’s issue was happening during the cold war, the period of arms races and ideological confrontation, which were very intense at the global level. At the regional level, then it was the period when Southeast Asia was divided into two confronting blocks that sometime tried to accommodate each other. At the national level, Cambodia was facing on one hand the risk of the return of the genocidal regime of Pol Pot supported by the United Nations, and on the other hand was facing the unjust economic embargo by a number of countries supporting the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, and put sanctions on the Cambodian people who survived from the bloody thirsty claws of Pol Pot clique.
The situation at that time is that, for the former State of Cambodia which I was the Prime minister, the choice of continuing war in search of peace was the easiest and least risky one. But for the long term future of the country, we could not choose this easiest choice by using war to end war. We were committed to electing the choice of high political risk for the government (State of Cambodia) by working hard to negotiate peace basing on two strategies: first, to achieve a political solution that prevents the return of Pol Pot genocidal regime and second, to maintain national achievements built from bare hands and sufferings since the collapse of Pol Pot’s regime in 1979.
I would like to reiterate that it was neither easy nor difficult path, but it was the very dangerous path for us as victims and vulnerable. However, our efforts in meeting a common interest let to the historical meeting on the 02nd December 1987 between Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and Hun Sen at Feren-Tardenois in France which opened up to many other political negotiations on Cambodia even though some countries and factions, especially the Khmer Rouge, did not agree. Since then, the bilateral and multilateral meetings have happened in many different places and different forms such as Sihanouk-Hun Sen, Sihanouk-Hun Sen-Son San, Sihanouk-Hun Sen-Son San-Khiev Sam Phan, JIM 1, JIM 2, IMC in Indonesia and the failure of the First Paris International Conference in 1989 etc.
The patience, accommodation and the art of making concession had steadily led us to a framework solution and a draft agreement which was prepared by the 5 Permanent Members of United Nations and the formation of the Supreme National Council (SNC) with 12 members. The SNC had to confront with countless obstacles that need to be solved in order to reach an agreement at the time that Khmer Rouge continued to hold their ambition to use force in solving problems.
The negotiation process to achieve the Paris Peace Agreement had many problems but the most challenging problem was the solution on military issues which were very difficult to be agreed upon. As I mentioned, there are two key factors to make Khmer Rouge to accept the solution on this military issue.
First, after two private meetings between Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and me in Jakarta on 2nd and 4th June 1991 respectively, Their Majesties Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and the Queen decided to return to Cambodia regardless of a political solution to create the National Leader Committee, with Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk as the Head, and myself, Hun Sen as the deputy Head, while the constitution, national flag, national anthem, parliament, and the whole structure of the former State of Cambodia remain unchanged, in which H.E. Heng Samrin was the Head of State Council, H.E.Chea Sim as the Head of the Parliament, and myself, Hun Sen as the Prime Minister. The decision to return to Cambodia by Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk was the sacred stick hitting the Khmer Rouge and their allies to re-consider their strategies for survival.
Second, the art of achieving the agreement on demobilization by 70%, which I call “serving Hun Sen with his own-made cake by some body’s hands”. We still remember that the Khmer Rouge faction proposed to reserve about 2,000 soldiers for each faction, therefore the tripartite coalition government would have about 6,000 soldiers while the government of the former State of Cambodia which controlled more than 90% of territory and 140,000 soldiers could have only 2,000 soldiers. This would allow the Khmer Rouge with an easy path to come back to power through their hidden military force in their control area. In the private meeting between me and a representative from a major country during a working meal, I expressed the idea of demobilization by 70% but I did not raise that proposal by myself because the Khmer Rouge leaders always oppose to my proposals. Therefore, this formula had to go through a major country to Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk who was the Head of SNC’s meeting and was later submitted into the SNC’s meeting. Myself and others including Khiev Sam Phan and Son Sen who were the representatives of the Khmer Rouge all supported this proposal. Therefore, the military issue was the most difficult in achieving the agreement and it was solved through “serving Hun Sen with his own-made cake by some body’s hands” approach.
After the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, the King, the Queen and royal family members returned to Cambodia with warm welcome from the people while Khiev Sam Phan and Son Sen were welcomed by demonstration. The United Nations sent UNAMIC in order to prepare the UNTAC’s operation. Three among the four factions implemented the Paris Peace Agreement, especially the cease-fire and troops concentration to prepare for mobilization and opening up of areas and institutions for inspection by UNTAC while the Khmer Rouge did not only implement the agreement but also agitate other factions and UNTAC in implementation of this agreement. UNTAC as the guarantor of the agreement implantation was able to impose only on those respecting the agreement but not to the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge area was totally inaccessible by UNTAC. Every time that the Khmer Rouge attacked the former State of Cambodia armed forces, UNTAC’s spokesperson always declared that the Khmer Rouge and State of Cambodia factions violated the cease-fire agreement. This is the unjust action of UNTAC which imposed the same guilt to both perpetrator and the victim. Moreover, in addition to not punishing the Khmer Rouge for their violation, UNTAC had made other serious violations in many forms and approaches against factions respecting the agreement from cease-fire, demobilization to elections as I have provided a great number of specific examples.
The second Kingdom of Cambodia born with the departure of UNTAC after spending more than two billions US dollars while Cambodia remains in the situation of “one country two administrative regions and two governments”. Wars still continued both along the border with Thailand and in a number of areas within the country, which was characterized as “tiger skin situation”. Within the new coalition government, the conflicting ideas continue to exist, which later led to the event in July 1997. After that with the support from generous friendly country, Cambodian initiated an idea to achieve the concession and new agreement without any influence from outsiders. We have adopted the Election Law, created National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council to prepare for election and to solve conflicts. With the technical and financial supports, Cambodians prepared the election by ourselves.
The conflicting idea between the parties elected by people were solved in the benefits of the people and future of Cambodia in the presence and idea of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk. As a result, the coalition government was formed by two main political parties, the Cambodian People Party and the FUNCINPEC Party and started their works until the election of the third mandate of the national assembly and to the present time.
In this new era, the iron erosion strategy of the Khmer Rouge met with the Win-Win policy of the Royal Government. This is the final stage of the national reconciliation. Only 25 days after the government started their work in 1998, the Royal Government totally disbanded the military and political organization of the Khmer Rouge The remaining Khmer Rouge Force defected to the government and others were arrested. There is no guerilla force, leaders or Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Therefore, what the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement intended to achieve could not be realized during the UNTAC have now become reality because Cambodian factions have agreed with each other without any order and influence from outside. Once again, the patience and concession are the key to ensure price and cooperation and to avoid division and conflict. In all of these processes, the “Win-Win” policy is the core and an important instrument of our peace concept. It is also the most important lesson, which Cambodia has learned from the experiments and many decades of struggle in order to achieve full peace and tranquility. The key point in the “Win-Win” policy is to recognize that there will be no winner in the destructive war, and the revenge also cannot bring peace to the people and country. Therefore, I decided to apply the three “safety policies” to end the war and conflict in the country. Those are:
First- to guarantee the personal and family safety for those who are willing to end the war and return to live in the society.
Second- to guarantee the career safety by providing enough opportunity to continue their professions that they used to have.
Third- to guarantee the safety of their properties that they have had without confiscation and alteration.
The three policies are the most sacred and effective medicine to cure the wound and division caused by many decades of civil war and internal conflict. However, the “Win-Win” policy did not stop there. To continue this policy, I set out an urgent integration strategy for those who live in the former Khmer Rouge controlled area to return to live in the society in order to provide them with opportunities to contribute and to get benefits from the national development through providing the appropriate physical and economic infrastructure. This is an important complementary strategy strengthening and ensuring the “Win-Win” policy to be comprehensively succeeded.
If we take stock of what happening for lesson learned and experiences in this peace process, we would see that the collapse of the political and military organization and national reconciliation have been made possible due to many mixed factors that include:
- The King and Queen are always the core of the National Reconciliation.
- The coordination among the political parties through the multi-parties democracy under the motto of “Nation Religion King” by considering the long term benefits of the nation rather than the short term benefits for the parties.
- The brightness and correctness of the Royal Government’s policy, especially the “Win-Win” policy and other socio-economic policies and other sector policies to support the “Win-Win” policy which were appropriate to the desire of Cambodian people.
- The support from international community in the process of national reconciliation, democracy, respects for human rights and rehabilitation of Cambodia.
- The policy mistakes of Pol Pot genocidal regime since 1975 to its end.
- The non-retaliation among people, who live in the different controlled areas and from different groups of soldiers that used to fight with each other is another important reason, which provides favorable environment for the government to implement the “Win-Win” policy successfully. The good point for Cambodia is the non-retaliation, disregard of who win or loss, in which every one is the winner. Peace and national reconciliation is for all, which is why the internal border from one area to another area has been demolished. The people regard each other as only one race, achieve the same development and benefits under one constitution, one law and one government. The arm forces that used to fight with each other have joint together without discrimination and division in terms of uniform and patriotism.
Indeed, we have clearly understood about the undeniable obligation in search of justice for the people, who used to suffer from the genocidal regime in the past. In this sense, the Royal Government is strongly committed to fulfilling the remaining necessary tasks in order to bring those responsible for the past genocidal crime to court. However, I just want to recall that those, that now demand to bring the former Khmer Rouge leaders to court, used to forgive, support them to continue the civil war, and allow those criminals to sit at the peace negotiating tables in 1991. The perception of crime committed by the former Khmer Rouge leaders during the past and now is not different. What is different is the fact that Cambodia have fought for and achieved peace by ourselves in the past ten years.
Anyway, I would like to reiterate that our rationales and morals will not let the genocidal crime committed upon Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge leader’s rule from 1975 to 1979 go unpunished. The masterminds of this crime will have to come before the court and the people to be responsible for what they have done. This is the demand for justice and the effective warning for those leaders who will be responsible for the future of the country and the people. In this sense, the Royal Government will continue to push the trial process to make sure that it will be successful. I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound thanks to all development partners for support in the preparation of this difficult trial process.
The successful and peaceful end of war and national fraction is hardly earned. However, ensuring sustained peace and further strengthened culture of peace achieved so far is even more difficult. To this end, we must work harder and double our efforts in order to nurture all the key elements which are the roots of peace, including the promotion of non-violence culture, respect of human rights, democracy and good governance, especially the efforts in poverty reduction and raising the living standard of the people. Without efforts and concrete results in the implementation of these works, we do not have any hope to maintain sustainable peace which we have just achieved.
In this sense, we all have worked hard in the last two decades by passing through many difficulties and small or big obstacles in order to build and rehabilitate the country from the genocidal regime and many years of civil war in order to ensure that Cambodia is able to regain its destiny and be able to equally participate in the regional and international affairs as a nation with respect and admiration.
The Rectangular Strategy, which is the political platform of the Royal Government in the third term of the National Assembly, reflects all of these efforts, especially the efforts to promote rights and dignity of the Cambodian people by respecting all kinds of freedom, both in politics and socio-economy, especially rights in development.
In foreign policy area, Cambodia has been quickly integrated into the region and the world and is now playing an active role on equal footing in the regional and global affairs. Cambodia has transformed from a country which used to have the UN peace-keeping force into a country which is now sending its troops to help other countries in the UN peacekeeping missions. We have achieved another fruitful and historical result in solving border issues with neighboring countries based on the principles of transforming those border areas into peaceful, cooperative and development ones.
In domestic policy, the Royal Government mainly focuses on the strengthening of peace, stability and social order, especially the strengthening of freedom of expression and participation rights in the democratic process for all people. The election has been conducted regularly. The promotion of the rights to join the free political movement through multi-party system as well as the freedom of expression and freedom of information through numerous national and internal media with thousand of NGOs that have operated freely in Cambodian is the clear evidence reflecting unwavering commitment of the Royal Government in promoting democracy, and respect of human rights and human dignity.
Moreover, the first Commune/Sangkat election in 2002, conducted under a democratic governance and decentralization system, was a comprehensive reform in the contemporary history of Cambodia’s administration, further confirming the strengthening of democracy, especially at local levels across Cambodia. The decentralization policy will be sustained and further strengthened through the Second Commune/Sangkat election, which will be held on April 2007.
The Royal Government considers the development of institutional capacity and good governance is key to sustainable and equitable development. This work is closely linked to the preparation and strengthening of the rule of law, aiming at improving transparency, accountability and anti-corruption through Judicial Reform, Public Administrative Reform, Public Finance Management Reform, Forestry Management Reform, Fishery Sector Reform and Land Management Reform. All of these reforms not only have direct impacts on the business and investment promotion and the distribution of the fruits of economic growth to every level of society, but also contributing to the promotion of rights, freedom and dignity of the human as well as democracy.
At the same time, the Royal Government has mobilized resources to invest in prioritized physical infrastructure, including the enhancement of agricultural production in order to build a strong foundation for sustainable economic growth. By implementing this policy, the infrastructure system and other physical facilities such as roads, irrigation, water supply and distribution, electricity as well as telecommunication have been rehabilitated and built all over the country.
As a result, in the last decade, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has averaged at more than 8 percent. The poverty rate reduced from 100 percent in 1979 to 47 percent in 1994, and after 10 years when the situation in Cambodia improved the poverty incidence dropped to 35 percent in 2004.
While promoting a sustainable economic growth and trying to put tremendous efforts into distributing the fruits of economic growth with equity between the rich and poor, urban and rural and between genders, the Royal Government has also been trying to promote social and cultural development through providing more opportunities for the poor in receiving education and health services, clean water and hygiene, electricity, rural credit, information and proper technology. As a result, social indicators of almost all sectors made noticeable achievements and are being recognized and highly valued by national and international public opinions.
I just have made deliberation on the key mechanisms in ensuring sustainable peace and prosperity for the country and Cambodian people. Peace and development do have a close correlation which is mutually inclusive. On the one hand, peace is the sole and most important objective for social and economic development. On the other hand, promoting democracy, respecting human right, improving public service delivery and good governance as well as all the development policies which meant to support the poor are necessary conditions in ensuring the sustainable peace that we have achieved so far. The Royal Government fully understood this very close verbal connection and has been very determined in bringing about continued and progressive development for Cambodia.
Now, we can confidently make a strong statement that Cambodia has emerged as a nation which is united by a common objective of avoiding past conflict and separation, and plays a meaningful role in the international community in order to ensure a prosperous future of mankind. Now, Cambodian people can look into its future confidently and optimistically, given the achievements made so far through national reconciliation, national unity, compromise and forgiveness given to each another while pursuing long-term national interest over the interests of political parties or individuals which are short-term in nature. This can be done by carefully implementing broader economic and social development policies of the Royal Government.
Once again, I would like to highly appreciate the Cambodia Institute for International Relations for the excellent organization of this meaningful Open Academic Forum. Finally, I would like to wish Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen with the Five Gems of Buddhist blessings.