Op-Ed by Sophan Seng
I was invited by the Cambodian Canadian Community of Canada to give a talk about the importance of Paris Peace Accord at their gathering to commemorate/observing the 19th anniversary of Paris Peace Accord. I also got invitation from the University of Calgary to be a guest speaker at their weekly "Movies that Matters" program organized by undergratuate students. Movie was "Enemies of the People" filmed and documented by the effort of a Phnom Penh Post reporter, Theth Sambath, which has been worldwide screened and granted many distinctive prizes. The audience of these two events were astonished and stimulated by my talk. I was asked several questions from the audience, and my talk was broader and in detail more than on what I am going to spefically describe here. Exactly, the Paris Peace Accord is very crucial for both talks.
Paris Peace Agreement in a Nutshell
As one of the younger generations of Cambodia, I couldn’t abstain from sharing idea about the 19th anniversary of Paris Peace Accord. Today is Saturday, October 23, 2010 is the 19th years of the international effort under the United Nations mediating to signing this very important chapter for Cambodia history, the Paris Peace Accord. This treaty is not solely important for Cambodia but for the international organization like the UNs to take further step in demonstrating a better world for all livings.
This short essay will elaborate some plights of Cambodia in engaging with the international recognizable treaties to survive itself from foreign domination as well as to maintain its status as a sovereign state in this planet. Furthermore, the author would like to argue some important issues needing to clarify of having yearly commemoration and observation of this very important day for all Cambodian people and their government.
Snapshot of History
At least, two academic writers such as Stephen Morris and Chan Dara who have argued that Cambodia will loss its status as a sovereign state if this country has not been guaranteed by at least two important international treaties: the Geneva Treaty and Paris Peace Accord. The past tumultuous political movements including the legacy of French colony and the cold-war have imposed on some countries to become greater dominant state and some countries to become satellite state. As the matter of fact, Lao and Cambodia who were destined by both French colony and the cold war have emerged in different outcomes: Lao and Cambodia were wholeheartedly supported by Chinese prolific leader Chou En Lai in assuring its sovereignty from the French colony as well as from Vietnamese attempt to dominate at the Geneva Conference in 1954.
However, Lao has not been internationally recognized after waking up from the cold war which Lao and Cambodia is considered as the hot-spot of political players. In contrast, Cambodia has endorsed from that hot-spot of domino effect by the Paris Peace Accord.
Evidently, at the conference, Pham Yang Dong tried to be a representative of Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao, but he was opposed by French officer, Jacque Bido and it was also disagreed by the great Chinese leader Chou En Lai. Geneva treaty in April 1954 was a cornerstone to condone Cambodia from Indochinese Federation attempted by Vietnam. However, political climate in the region changed rapidly after America stationed their troops in Southern Vietnam to counter-strike the influence of communism in this region. At this point, Cambodia couldn’t carry its land to resettle in another location but painfully affected by this rivalry between democratic and communist bloc. It has significantly led to the inability of this Geneva Accord.
Among those countries at the Geneva Conference, the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and French fully signed the treaty, but Southern Vietnam and the United States took note and acknowledged the agreement but they didn’t sign it because they might think that it will be bound by legal accountability in the future.
Paris Peace Accord was one of the successes among countries who turned to carry out soft policy which has changed from confrontational approach to co-operative policy. The main mediator of this soft approach is the emerging of the United Nations, and the cease-fire and peace settlement in Cambodia by this accord had showed significant achievement of this policy.
With more than 17 countries, they simultaneously signed the treaty to end war and foreign occupation in Cambodia. The treaty was empowered by five annexes focused on a comprehensive political settlement of the Cambodia conflict; the agreement concerning the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality, national unity of Cambodia; and the declaration on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Cambodia. Noticeably, all annexes, concerning and declaration has been existing and slightly existing nowadays in Cambodia. However, existence without proper and effective implementation is a matter of regress, not progress.
As the matter of fact, we see the unstopping pouring of foreign aids, the creation of Cambodian constitution, the effort to establish political pluralism and democracy, the respect of human rights, the reform of judicial system and ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal etc. What has been visibly endorsing Cambodia today is the growth of economic development although Cambodian people are still experiencing wide gap between the rich and the poor as well as the political elites and the farmers who are the backbone of the nation.
Importance of Paris Peace Treaty
We can say that Paris Peace Treaty is the national insurance of Cambodia. It is a renaissance for Cambodia because Vietnam invaded Cambodia to drive away Khmer Rouge didn’t stop war in Cambodia. Many present Cambodian war-handicaps were affected after the Khmer Rouge, not before or during the Khmer Rouge.
The Paris Peace Treaty has insured Cambodia and it has no tricks and manipulations at all. A tiny country like Cambodia with small population comparing to its neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand, only international treaties and accords can assure its sovereignty as a nation-state. In the area of international relations, one might try to justify that Cambodia should balance its political tendency towards every country. But this might easily slip into a powerful country if Cambodia has not been recognized by international agreement signed by multiple signatories or "multi-lateral parties" called in international relations science. International agreement itself might be nullified or inactive if wars terribly tear apart those signatory countries as well as the dissolution of the United Nations or the third world war happens in the future. However, no other thing can warranty Cambodia better than the internationally recognizable treaty like the Paris Peace Accord. Any Cambodians who don't see the importance of Paris Peace Accord for Cambodia is surely committing a self-suicide and the history will judge them.
With this regard:
We, Cambodian people would like to pay gratitude to those Cambodian heroes/heroines, political leaders and parties who tried to establish this Paris Peace Accord;
We, Cambodian people, would like to pay gratitude to the United Nations who has successfully performed its duty as the world mediator to organize several meetings led to this final agreement;
We, Cambodian people, would like to pay gratitude to those signatory countries such as Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, the French Republic, the Republic of India, the Republic of Indonesia, Japan, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who simultaneously signed this agreement.
As mentioned above:
We, Cambodian people, would like to call for attention (put it into action) towards the present Cambodian government to effectively adhere to this agreement to build Cambodia in both sustainable national growth and ensuring true sovereign state by annually commemorating this day (October 23), making awareness to all Cambodian people by inscribing on national curriculum of education for children and adhere to all its articles and stipulations without condition;
We, Cambodian people, would like to call for attention (put it into action) towards the United Nations in the continuing of democracy promotion, monitoring incumbent government, and developing economic;
We, Cambodian people, would like to call for attention (put it into action) towards all our brothers, sisters and younger generations to homage and celebrate this day together annually without procrastinating it.
By Sophan Seng
President of Khmer Youth Association of Alberta, Canada