KR Decision Up to Gov’t, Akashi Says

kompong chhnang district, Kom­­pong Chhnang province – The former chief of the UN’s mission in Cambodia during the early 1990s said Monday the international com­munity needs to loosen the reins on Cambodia, which has relied heavily on the presence of donors for most of the last decade.

“I think the time has come for us to stop giving advice to the Cam­bodians,” Yasushi Akashi said during his first visit back to Cambodia since the end of the Untac mission in 1993.

“We can trust the Cambodians to make their own wise choices,” said Akashi, who is now the chairman of the Japan Center for Pre­ventive Diplomacy.

Asked about a tribunal to try sur­viving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, whose regime killed more than 1 million Cambodians and indirectly led to the UN’s eventual presence here, Akashi said: “It’s up to the government to decide.”

He added there were many “com­plicated circumstances” surrounding a planned UN-assisted tribunal, that would take place on Cambodian soil, but with the participation of a minority of foreign judges and prosecutors.

Akashi, who arrived in Cambo­dia Sunday for a three-day visit, was attending a weapons destruction ceremony he said symbolized a momentous shift in Cambodian life, which until the late 1990s was repeatedly disrupted by war.

“We indeed move from the culture of war, destruction and weapons to another culture—a culture of peace, progress and dialogue among people,” he said.

Authorities had gathered nearly 7,000 weapons—AK-47 assault rifles, handguns and grenade launchers—which they then doused with gasoline and set alight.

On average, the government confiscates a little more than 100 weapons a day from civilians, who legally cannot own firearms.

But despite numerous crackdowns on arms in recent years, guns still remain a threat to people living here and abroad, Minister of Cabinet Sok an told the crowd of about 600 who had gathered to watch the blaze.

“The world still faces sorrows and shocks because thousands of people are still killed by light weapons every year,” Sok an said.

“Although we’ve gained complete peace, there are still anarchical and illicit weapons,” he said.

Still, Akashi said Cambodia has made many improvements since his departure.

Though the Untac mission was criticized for failing to disarm the numerous political factions who until the 1991 Paris Peace Accords had battled each other throughout the country, Akashi and the UN are credited with facilitating the 1993 national elections.

“What we did in Cambodia eight years ago was the correct way…Cambodians are making their own efforts to make lives better for their own people,” he said.



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