Preventing a conflict relapse in Cambodia

Summary

The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia maintained peace and stability in post-conflict Cambodia until a national government was formed in 1993.

The Peace Agreement signed in Paris called for a transitional international administration to govern Cambodia until the appropriate national authorities could be established. Immediately after the ceremony in Paris, the United Nations Advance Mission to Cambodia (UNAMIC) was dispatched to the region to prevent a conflict relapse until a more robust presence arrived.1 In February 1992, the UN Security Council approved the formation of United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and charged it with maintaining law and order, administering the country, repatriating refugees, rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, organising nationwide elections, monitoring the military situation, and ultimately preventing renewed war in Cambodia.2 The complexity of these tasks was compounded by consistent efforts of Khmer Rouge leaders to derail the peace process by renouncing the ceasefire, refusing to disarm, and boycotting elections.3

UNTAC’s first tasks were monitoring the withdrawal of foreign forces to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, beginning the process of clearing landmines from across the Cambodian landscape, and beginning the process of refugee return.4 By July 1993, UNTAC had successfully repatriated 350,000 refugees and repaired key infrastructure across the country, however as preparations for the scheduled May 1993 elections proceeded, problems with the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration process threatened to ignite a conflict.5 The Khmer Rouge refused to participate in the disarmament process, leading the other armed groups to reduce their own participation for strategic reasons. Thus, just 25 percent of the total number of troops scheduled for disarmament in June 1992 handed over their weapons to UNTAC.6 Further security issues provided additional challenges, however UNTAC was ultimately able to navigate a relatively peaceful post-conflict transition in Cambodia and, after successfully holding elections and overseeing the Cambodian Constituent Assembly adopt a new constitution in September 1993, the Mission was withdrawn.7 A small UN Military Liaison Team remained in Phnom Penh to report on developments in Cambodia. Although Cambodia’s post-war transition was later marred by a coup d’état and an outbreak political violence in 1997, stability was restored, and the country was spared from relapsing back into armed conflict.8



1 United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia. Mandate. (UN Peacekeeping, 2003) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/mission/past/unamic.htm (Accessed 01/11/2020)

2 United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. Mandate. (UN Peacekeeping, 2003) Available at: https://peacekeeping.un.org/sites/default/files/past/untacmandate.html (Accessed 01/11/2020)

3 David Ashley. “Between war and peace: Cambodia 1991-1998.” in Dylan Hendrickson, ed. Safeguarding Peace: Cambodia’s Constitutional Challenge. (London: Conciliation Resources, 1998) pp.22-3

4 Ibid.

5 Trevor Findlay. “Cambodia: the Legacy and Lessons of UNTAC.” Sipri Research Report, No. 9. (1995) pp.103-4 Available at: https://www.sipri.org/publications/1995/cambodia-legacy-and-lessons-untac (Accessed 01/11/2020)

6 UN Peacekeeping. Cambodia – UNTAC.

7 Ibid.

8 Ashley. “Between war and peace.” pp.28-9

Start Year

1991

End Year

1993

Location

Cambodia

UN Regional Group

Asia-Pacific

Type of Conflict

Risk of a conflict relapse

Type of Initiative

International transitional administration, Peacekeeping mission

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The UN

Impact

Lasting

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