Leaders Reflect on Anniversary of Accords

Tempered optimism and fond reflection were the themes Sun­day morning at a Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace sponsored conference celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the landmark Paris Peace Accords.

The accords, which paved the way for the 1993 UN-monitored elections, brought an end to nearly 20 years of civil wars and factional fighting, but many participants note that there is much work yet to be done.

“October 23, 1991 is a historic day by which the entire Cam­bodian nation, with support from the international communities, reached an agreement on the global solutions of the Cambod­ian conflict which put an end to the most troubled history of Cambodia,” Senate President Chea Sim said in his address.

Other addresses touched on the same point.

“It’s time for reassessment. Nobody has looked face-to-face for 10 years. It’s time for us to sit down and say: ‘What is going on?’” said Funcinpec secretary-general Prince Norodom Siri­vudh.

He said dialogue between the rival political parties in Cambodia is long overdue, and that many of the provisions set forth in the Accords must still be addressed.

“The government has been very positively responsive,” Prince Sirivudh added.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy offered a bleaker view of the current status of the reforms set forth in the Paris Accords.

“Cambodia has a very high death rate, maybe a worse rate than Afghanistan. I think Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people. If you look at corruption, in the last 22 years, more Cambodians have died than in Khmer Rouge years, but it is silent. So is this really a victory?” he asked.

Democracy does not mean simply going to the polls and vo­ting, Sam Rainsy added.

“We don’t understand what democracy is. Democracy is not a political game. Elections were a betrayal of the Cambodian will. The ruling party is still the same, and they are threatening my political party,” he said.

Saying speakers should not “stray from topics” or exceed the seven-minute time limit, Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said he disagreed that violence and intimidation have affected the commune elections and said “no significant or remarkable events could threaten the results.”

Panelists agreed problems such as drug abuse, human trafficking, depopulation, deforestation, poverty and economic integration will continue to challenge Cambodia in the future.

“The key to strengthening the liberal democracy in Cambodia is to speed up the process of building the Kingdom of Cambodia into a state of law and reform in all fields of our society,” Chea Sim said.

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