JUST at the start of Khmer New Year, on Saturday April 14, the US, UK and France launched more than 100 missiles against what they said were Syrian chemical weapons facilities in response to the chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb.
While Cambodians enjoyed their Khmer New Year celebrations, Syrian people were still struggling to find shelter and refuge from a prolonged civil war.
The war has caused huge destruction for innocent civilians. UN Secretary General António Guterres observed that the conflict is entering its eighth year with the “grimmest” reality on the ground.
“A country known for its ancient civilization and a people known for their richness of diversity have been betrayed. Syria is bleeding inside and out,” he said.
According to the UN, the Syrian conflict has caused more than 5.6 million Syrian refugees and 6.1 million internally displaced people, with more than 13 million people inside the country requiring humanitarian assistance, including nearly six million children.
Cambodia and Syria have lessons to provide to each other and the world.
From Syria, it offers two lessons or reminiscences.
One is never take peace for granted. Peace should be the absolute value exceeding other values and peace should even be a religion for every nations.
The conflict reminds the world of the value of peace and also reminds Cambodia of its own experiences of falling into a civil war.
Unfortunately some Cambodian politicians forget history and call for foreign intervention in and sanctions on the Kingdom.
Unilateral interventionism and the violation of international laws are the main causes of conflicts and war. The war in Iraq and Syria are cases in point, illustrating the intervention by major powers in destroying these two countries.
For Syria, even without the investigation from the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN, the US, UK and France seem to already have a fixed target.
The disguising labels of protection of democracy and human rights, toppling of dictatorship, elimination of chemical weapons and weapons of mass destruction are the absolute that have been used to justify intervention and aggression.
What lessons can Syria learn from Cambodia’s peace-building experiences?
First, don’t be allured to or trapped in proxy wars between major powers. The interests of the major powers is to expand their sphere of influence through both economic and military means. So don’t trust them.
From Cambodia’s perspective, the end of Syrian war is nowhere in sight considering that the superpowers have just started the full bloom of a new Cold War. To find peace in Syria like in Cambodia, it is imperative that all foreign interventionists agree among themselves first to stop the war.
Cambodia had the “historical luck” to strike the deal of the Paris Agreements when the Cold War just ended. If the Cold War was lingering, Cambodian civil war would also have been prolonged until the superpowers exhausted their arm-sales and financial resources. Cambodia has a bitter memory for itself too, which is never again to be trapped in proxy wars.
The second lesson to find peace like in Cambodia, Syria needs to identify a Hun Sen and a Norodom Sihanouk.
This means Syria has to identify who are the major leaders from the two domestic adversaries that have the power to unite various factions. These two identified leaders shall have the genuine will for peace and national reconciliation.
Lessons have shown that peace in Cambodia can only be finally achieved by Cambodians through win-win solutions. Thus final and lasting solutions for the Syrian conflict can only be found by Syrians themselves.
Doung Bosba Cambodian analyst based in Phnom Penh