Monday will mark the 15th anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which authorized the UNTAC elections of 1993 and began Cambodia’s transition from a war-torn communist state to a fledgling democracy.
On Saturday, the government and UN will mark the occasion with a daylong forum at the Phnom Penh Hotel.
The speakers will almost all be members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP or foreign dignitaries, some of whom were involved in the agreements, according to a copy of the program.
Officials from other political parties and local NGOs are, however, conspicuously absent from the forum, which has been organized by the government and is sponsored by among others the UN, European Commission, the Danish Embassy and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Pen Dareth, a coordinator of the forum and member of the Council of Jurists, which is part of the Council of Minister, said Funcinpec and SRP members have been invited to sit in the audience, and will be able to ask questions.
“This conference is to give the perspective of the government,” Pen Dareth noted. “It is not only CPP, you can see we have the United Nations and the international signatories,” he added.
Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi and UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Gardner are confirmed to attend the government forum.
Featured speakers include Hun Sen, and such CPP heavyweights as Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Senate President Chea Sim, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, Defense Minister Tea Banh, Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim and others.
The only other Cambodian listed on the program is Ros Chantrabot, who according to media reports is writing a history of an ancient Khmer revolutionary with financial support from Hun Sen.
Invited foreign speakers include John Sanderson, the Australian who commanded the UNTAC forces, and Nick Etheridge, who headed the Canadian delegation to the Paris negotiations.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said the CPP-dominated list of speakers raises its own questions about democratization in Cambodia since UNTAC. “You have to raise your eyebrows when you see a conference that only invites one party to speak,” Son Chhay said.
A separate forum on the peace agreements, organized by several leading NGOs and Constitutional Council member Son Soubert, was to have been held Sunday, but was canceled due to a lack of funding, Son Soubert said.
Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said NGOs are disappointed they were not invited to speak. “We have been monitoring the situation since 1992, why didn’t they include us?” she asked.