Losing the Spirit of the Paris Peace Agreement

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Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements (the “Agreements”), which were signed 12 years after the Khmer Rouge regime had fallen, and in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War. Through the establishment of the United Nation Transitional Authority in Cambodia (“UNTAC”) and the adoption of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (the “Constitution”), the Agreements sought to establish peace, “free and fair elections” and a liberal democratic system based on pluralism.

Despite major improvements in social legislation and political representation in Cambodia since 1991, 23 years later the Royal Government of Cambodia (the “RGC”) seems to have largely forgotten the spirit of the Agreements. Article 3 of the Agreements stipulated, “Cambodia undertakes to ensure respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Cambodia only enjoys a partial democracy and elections have not been free and fair. Two more journalists were killed in 2014, and human rights activists continued to face restrictions and judicial harassment. The Agreements also stipulated that the government would “settle all disputes with Cambodia by peaceful means.” However, the right to freedom to peaceful assembly was suspended by the RGC for more than seven months this year, and security guards often beat protesters.

2014 has seen increased popular discontent, with protests regularly being conducted throughout the country by opposition supporters, garment workers and victims of land evictions . Years of widespread human rights violations committed in total impunity has led to a growing dissatisfaction which if not addressed could threaten the stability and national harmony of the country.

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