Thursday, April 01, 2010

1990 - 1999 Highlights 60 Year of Diplomatic Relations

1991: Prince Norodom Sihanouk returns to Cambodia after 13 years of exile
1991: The United States restores diplomatic relations with Cambodia, ends economic sanctions, and resumes development assistance
1992: UNTAC takes over administration of Cambodia 1993: Cambodia holds its first democratic election
1998: Pol Pot dies, marking the end of the Khmer Rouge

When the 1990s began, Cambodia was still a country divided by civil war, yet by the end of the decade it would finally see an end to nearly 30 years of armed conflict. The country would reach several milestones during the period: it would hold its first democratic elections, it would witness the demise of the Khmer Rouge as a military and political force, and it would welcome the return of Prince Norodom Sihanouk to Phnom Penh after 13 years in exile.
U.S. relations with Cambodia improved steadily over the course of the 1990s, culminating in the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and the re- instatement of U. S. development assistance. These changes came about largely because of major shifts in the geopolitical landscape and persistent negotiations by all of the parties with a stake in Cambodia's future.
In late 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, effectively ending the Cold War and creating space for a breakthrough in Cambodia. On January 2, 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker asked the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, Great Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union - to convene on the Cambodia issue. A series of meetings followed in New York and Paris. The U.S. position in these talks was that the UN should have authority over Cambodia during a transition period that would precede national elections and the formation of a new government.
The first meeting took place on January 15 in Paris. John Bolton, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, and Richard Solomon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, presented a chronology for transferring authority to the UN and preparing for elections.
All five countries involved in the talks agreed to a plan that would see Prime Minister Hun Sen's government retain control of its technical agencies but transfer administration of its ministries to the UN. At a second meeting in New York in February, the five permanent members discussed disarming the various warring factions, but a peace deal remained elusive.
In March 1990, the UN unveiled the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). It would be the largest and most ambitious UN peacekeeping operation up to that point, with an estimated price tag of $1.5 bi II ion. The plan laid out general outlines for an election, and it included the stipulation that refugees must be present in Cambodia to vote.
Meanwhile, a major debate was taking place in the u.s. Congress about President George H. W. Bush's policy toward Cambodia. Representative Chester Atkins, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine, criticized the Bush policy of supporting the non-communist resistance. The Congressmen contended that supporting the resistance groups was immoral because they were part of a coalition that included the Khmer Rouge.
Atkins took his argument to a national audience on a special ABC News report by Peter Jennings on April 26, 1990. During the program, Atkins made the case that the United States was tolerating the Khmer Rouge and that this policy could result in the communist rebels returning to power. "We're still fighting the Vietnam War, and this is the last battle of that war, and if we have to use the Khmer Rouge as a pawn in that we'll use them," he said. "We don't appreciate that we're being used by the Khmer Rouge rather than the other way around."
The report created a storm in political circles and the American public, with both The New York Times and The Washington Post running editorials condemning the Bush policy.
Seizing the momentum, in June Atkins proposed an amendment to cut all aid to the anti­government resistance and instead provide $10 million in support of peace talks.
Representative Stephen Solarz, a Democrat from New York long engaged in the Cambodia issue, argued against the amendment, contending that no U.S. support had reached the Khmer Rouge. A large majority of members of the U.S. House of Representatives agreed and voted down the amendment.
Regardless, the U.S. Senate entered the debate. Senator Mitchell and Senator John Danforth, a Republican from Missouri, demanded that the anti-government resistance be removed from Cambodia's UN seat, and that the United States start providing humanitarian aid to Cambodia, open talks with the Phnom Penh government, and state publicly that the Khmer Rouge should have no role in Cambodia's future. A petition that the senators created containing these demands collected more than 60 signatures in Congress.
As a result of this public pressure, the administration reexamined and, ultimately, changed its position. On July t 8, 1990, Secretary Baker announced at a news conference that the United States would do everything it could to ensure that the Khmer Rouge never returned to power in Cambodia. In addition, Secretary Baker said that the United States would begin providing aid to Cambodia outside of the border refugee camps, open dialogue with Hun Sen and Vietnam, and reverse its policy of supporting the anti­government resistance occupying Cambodia's UN seat.
This shift in U.S. policy set the stage for a final settlement in August 1990. On August 27 and 28, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council drafted a framework document that called for all parties to endorse a Cambodian Supreme National Council (SNC) that would have Prince Sihanouk as its head and would represent the various factions. It also called for a ceasefire and laid out guidelines for an election. The anti­government resistance and Hun Sen accepted the framework at a meeting in Jakarta in September. However, a cease fire did not occur in practice.
In February 1991, China announced that it would resume military aid to the Khmer Rouge. The United States, in an effort to assure the international community that it would not tolerate the return of Pol Pot to power, suspended all aid to the non-communist resistance because of its cooperation with the Khmer Rouge.
In June 1991, the SNC and the five permanent members of the Security Council met again but still could not convince the Khmer Rouge - who continued to initiate military offensives against government troops from their strongholds along the Thai border - to accept a peace settlement. The next month, the SNC met in Beijing and agreed to stop receiving arms from foreign sources and to allow the UN to monitor a tentative ceasefire.
The long-awaited diplomatic breakthrough finally occurred in October 1991. At what was dubbed the Paris Conference, all parties signed an historic peace accord. Under the agreement, UNTAC would take charge of the resettlement of 350,000 Cambodian refugees along the Thai border; disarmament of the various factions; preparations for a democratic election; and re-establishment of government institutions.
With the agreement in place, the following month proved to be a momentous one for Cambodia. Sihanouk returned to the country on November 14 after 13 years in exile. He rode from the airport into Phnom Penh in a 1963 Chevrolet Impala convertible with Hun Sen as a large crowd lining the road cheered and waved flags. That month, the city celebrated its first water festival- one of the biggest celebrations on the Khmer calendar ­since 1969.
On November 11, the United States opened a liaison office in Phnom Penh and appointed Charles H. Twining as U.S. Representative. The United States also announced that it would end economic sanctions and begin providing aid to Cambodia for the first time in 15 years. By 1992, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would re-open its permanent mission to Cambodia, and the agency's total budget for the decade would reach $264 million.
With the establishment of a full-scale mission, USAID focused on rebuilding roads destroyed during 30 years of fighting and meeting the basic humanitarian needs of the Cambodian people. Improved health and education services emerged as additional key concerns. U.S. assistance also paid for 30% ofUNTAC's budget and supported UNTAC's mandate of establishing a freely elected government.
By 1992, the full UNTAC presence was in place. Leading the mission was Yasushi Akashi, a senior UN diplomat who was in charge of 16,000 soldiers and 5,000 civilians. Two of these civilian advisors, supervised the opening of Cambodia's first free press since 1972, with newspapers appearing in both Khmer and English. They also created Radio UNTAC, a popular source of unbiased information in Khmer.
The chief goal ofUNTAC was to prepare for the upcoming election. The two main contenders were the royalist FUNClNPEC and the CPP.
As the country's first national election approached, the Khmer Rouge sensed that it would not fare well, and so it boycotted the vote and threatened Cambodians who went to the polls with violence. They also began abducting UN personnel involved in election preparations.
Despite the violence, in May 1993, Cambodians turned out in large numbers to seize their first chance at participatory democracy. A remarkable 90% of the population voted, surpassing even the most hopeful of predictions.
FUNCINPEC received 45% of the vote, while the CPP received 38%. Prince Sihanouk announced that he was forming an interim government with Hun Sen and his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh as Deputy Prime Ministers. Although Ranariddh and the United States objected to the plan, two weeks later a government structure emerged in which the CPP and FUNCINPEC shared power, with two minor parties also participating.
In September, the newly formed Constituent Assembly approved a constitution, and Sihanouk was named King. He appointed Ranariddh as First Prime Minister and Hun Sen as Second Prime Minister. UNTAC had accomplished its mission of administering democratic elections and, thus, its mandate ended.
On September 24, 1993, the United States and the Kingdom of Cambodia established full diplomatic relations. The U.S. Mission was upgraded in status to a full Embassy, and on May 17, 1994, U.S. Representative Charles H. Twining presented his credentials as U.S. Ambassador.
Although a new government was in place, fears again surfaced in 1994 that the Khmer Rouge would re-emerge as a force in Cambodia. In response, the United States sent advisors to assist the Cambodian military, and the United States also protested Thailand's continued support of the Khmer Rouge. That same year, the U.S. Congress passed the Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, which officially endorsed a trial to hold Khmer Rouge leaders accountable for their crimes.

The American flag is raised at the newly opened embassy after diplomatic ties between the United States and Cambodia are restored.

Although the Khmer Rouge continued to worry the international community, U.S. assistance was a major factor in slowly weakening the rebels. According to many experts, the U.S. focus on building and refurbishing roads helped undermine the Khmer Rouge because it ended the isolation of populations living in areas the rebels controlled.
The highest-profile of these road projects was the reconstruction of National Road 4, which was originally built by the United States in the 1950s and ran from Phnom Penh to the country's only deep-water port, Sihanoukville. U.S. assistance also upgraded Highway 10 to Pailin, a Khmer Rouge stronghold, spurring trade in the area. In 1996, Khmer Rouge units rebelled against Pol Pot after he ordered people living in the area to stop trading with outsiders. There were signs that the movement was losing its resolve.
Although the Khmer Rouge continued to carry out military campaigns, its members were beginning to defect to the government. The highest-profile of these defections occurred in 1996, when Ieng Sary, former Foreign Minister under Pol Pot, defected and in return was granted control of Pail in as provincial leader. Another Khmer Rouge leader, Son Sen, also began negotiating with the government about a defection. Unfortunately for him, Pol Pot got wind of his plan and ordered him and his family executed.
On March 28, 1996, Kenneth M. Quinn presented his credentials as U.S. Ambassador. Quinn had been a Foreign Service Officer in Indochina during the war, and in the mid-I970s he was one of the first outside observers to document the existence and brutal nature of the Khmer Rouge.
In 1997, the situation in Cambodia- and U.S.­Cambodian relations - took a turn for the worse. On March 30, several grenades exploded at a rally for opposition politician Sam Rainsy, killing 16 and wounding more than 100. One of the wounded was an American, Ron Abney. As a result of the injuries to the American, the FBI launched an investigation into the attack but was unable to identify the perpetrators.
In June, fighting broke out between troops loyal to Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh. The reasons for the conflict were complex and it is not possible to say with certainty who fired the first shot. Prince Ranariddh had sent one of his generals to meet
with Pol Pot in the hope of securing his defection, and Hun Sen had accused the Prince of colluding with the Khmer Rouge, which ratcheted up tensions between the two sides. u.s. officials at the time believed that neither side wanted an armed conflict, but the United States was compelled to evacuate its staff and temporarily suspend aid.
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn presenting his credentials to His Majesty King Sihanouk in a ceremony at the Royal Palace on March 28, 1996.
With the 1998 national election on the horizon, the United States helped Cambodia prepare by supporting election monitoring organizations that fielded over 22,000 monitors nationwide. Cambodians went to the polls on July 26, 1998, with more than 93% of all registered voters participating. The CPP won the majority of votes, although it failed to win the two-thirds majority necessary to form a new government.
Tensions remained high and political violence occurred sporadically throughout a four-month deadlock. Then, on November 30, the CPP and FUNCINPEC party formed a coalition government, with Hun Sen as the sole Prime Minister. The National Assembly and a newly formed Senate began operating.
That same year, government forces began their final assault on what was left of the Khmer Rouge.
On April 15, 1998, Pol Pot died of natural causes; his movement, which had inflicted so much misery on Cambodia and its people, perished with him. As the decade came to a close, the United States restored bilateral development aid. Kent M. Wiedemann presented his credentials as U.S. Ambassador on August 31, 1999. Thirty years of civil war had finally ended, and Cambodians entered the new millennium hopeful for the future and ready to rebuild their country.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn visits a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in Phnom Vor, Kampot Province.

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