Today marks 29 years since the signing of Cambodia’s Paris Peace Agreements, a landmark international accord that continues to resonate through the country’s politics – if not always for the right reasons.
The October 23, 1991 agreement was the product of long and painstaking negotiations. Its main purpose was to end the civil war that had raged for more than a decade between the Soviet- and Vietnam-backed Cambodian government and three rebel factions backed by China, the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The treaty paved the way for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), a peacekeeping mission that essentially governed the country in 1992-93, during which time it was tasked with disarming the factions, returning refugees to their homes and holding free elections. Reflecting the zeitgeist of the time – a period of giddy liberal optimism that attended the collapse of the Soviet Union – the agreement also pledged to turn a poor, conflict-torn nation into a liberal democracy, where human rights would be respected and defended.