n September, the world celebrates International Day of Democracy and International Day of Peace on the 15th and the 21st respectively. While the first is meant to encourage governments to strengthen and consolidate democracy, the second is devoted to reinforcing the ideals of peace. Democracy and peace are mutually inclusive: one cannot genuinely be achieved without the other and both are crucial for a country to flourish and prosper.
In the eyes of many, the Kingdom of Cambodia enjoys peace. However, true peace must be felt and cannot simply be declared: beyond the absence of war, democracy, as well as strong institutions and respect for human rights, are key components of a peaceful state. This year, while celebrating these international days, we shall question whether either democracy or peace has been meaningfully achieved in Cambodia.
After decades of unrest and conflict, Cambodia received its first real shot at peace when the Paris Peace Agreements were signed in October 1991, offering a comprehensive political settlement aimed at putting an end to years of conflict. While some violations of the Agreements were deplored in the years following their signature, overall, the Agreements are largely perceived as succeeding in ending years of conflict in Cambodia, bringing about relative peace through the absence of war. Cambodian citizens are no longer living with the fear of being killed in conflict and unceremoniously buried in mass graves, and bombs are no longer heard shattering entire villages at a time.