Following the July 29 general election, the UN has called on the new CPP-led government to create an environment for open and inclusive political debate that allows all voices in Cambodia to be heard.
Srun Srorn, a social media influencer and a peace activist, says it is high time that the spirit of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords be revived as it is the only path to bring real justice, human rights and democracy for Cambodia and protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty. He recently spoke to Khmer Times’ Eileen McCormick.
KT: What sparked your interest in the long-standing document of the Paris Peace Accords?
Mr Srorn: The Paris Peace Accords are the foundations of real democracy, human rights and freedom, and peace building in order to end the geopolitical conflict in Cambodia. Throughout my youth and adulthood I worked very hard to promote and protect human rights for all marginalised people. For the past decade, human rights promotion and protection have become more of a struggle in Cambodia. Only the Paris Peace Accords can guarantee a strong rule of law to promote Cambodia’s best interests – preventing other foreign powers and countries from impeding the sovereignty of our people.
KT: What are the Paris Peace Accords?
Mr Srorn: Twenty parties signed the Paris Peace Accords on October 23, 1991. The Paris Peace Accords as an Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict includes four main agreements: (1) Final Act of the Paris Conference on Cambodia; (2) Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of Cambodia with five annexes; (3) Agreement on Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity, and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia; (4) Declaration on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia. This law is the only way to pave the way for all political parties in Cambodia to be united and prevent political interference from communist and so-called democratic countries.
KT: How do most Cambodians interpret the Paris Peace Accords?
Mr Srorn: In general people and political parties consider the Accords as useless or not useable. Often, it is used to create discord in Cambodia. Political conflicts are common especially during election years. The Accords are used to gain favour from voters, most of whom do not fully understand the agreement. Each of Cambodia’s key parties must be sympathetic to human rights so it is not uncommon for each party to throw accusations that their party supports the Paris Peace Accords while the other does not. We are clearly seeing that right now. All parties, including the government, interpret the Accords according to their own agenda and not in the spirit of the agreements themselves.
KT: Do Cambodian citizens still remember what the agreements mean?
Mr Srorn: Since I started to promote and advocate about the Paris Peace Accords this year, most of the people I have met and made comments on Facebook Live are not aware about our international agreement. Most of the elderly people I met, who are in their 60s and 70s, only know the Paris Peace Accords as Cambodia’s first election. While those who are younger know it only as a holiday.
Politicians we met from different political parties said the Paris Peace Accords no longer exist because it is integrated into the constitutional law of Cambodia. That, of course, is a very subjective interpretation. But it’s amazing to notice the change after we met with many people and provided them with an improved understanding of the Accords. After the interactions on social media and also personally, many of them now say that the Paris Peace Accords are the only path to bring real justice, human rights and democracy for Cambodia – while also maintaining that it could maintain peace and protect the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
KT: If someone feels that the Accords are dead, what do you say to them?
Mr Srorn: How can the Agreement of a Comprehensive Political Settlement of Cambodia with five Annexes be solved in 18 months? There is no article that states about avoidance or deadline in international law. Some people say the agreement ended after UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Administration in Cambodia) left, which was a time period of 18 months. UNTAC did not touch anything on the Declaration on the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Cambodia in the Accords. So can anyone consider this agreement as dead? International law will be considered dead if all signatory countries come to discuss it with approved monitoring and evaluation of the Accords on Cambodia, and declare it so. As far as I know, there has been no meeting to discuss about any of the agreements signed by all countries.
KT: What areas of the agreement has Cambodia done well in?
Mr Srorn: Only in appearance can I say that we have succeeded as a country but not in the core values of the Paris Peace Accords. What I mean by appearance is human rights. We have NGOs and UN organisations working on human rights but there are restrictions. The government supports rights via democracy through a vote-based election every five years with limitations.
Core values are things such as the trimming of the military and not accepting military foreign aid, the etiquette of political debate that can only take place in the National Assembly and it must be rules-based and not personal or vindictive against one another. Constitutional law, which very much supports the core values of the Paris Peace Accords, has not been legally upheld.
KT: Do you see the Paris Peace Accords as apolitical – not having to do with party politics at all?
Mr Srorn: The Accords are about peace building, building justice, supporting human rights, freedom and democracy in Cambodia. Without the Paris Peace Accords, all of the above mentioned are only words without any legal backing. Our human spirit and birthright, as citizens of Cambodia, should always be protected. Our personhood should not be challenged or ignored by any political party. The Paris Peace Accords should also apply to all the signatories and not just Cambodia. It is their responsibility to also see that it is implemented properly, for the sake of the Cambodian people.
KT: Would you like to see a new agreement drafted to encompass the modern situation of Cambodia?
Mr Srorn: I do not think it is possible to have a new agreement without implementing in full the existing one. Personally I think without using the existing one, Cambodia can never be classified as a truly developed and democratic country.
KT: How has your Facebook Live sessions on the topic helped your cause?
Mr Srorn: Yes, thousands view my Facebook Live talk show every day. It’s also very interactive. It is not just me talking but also the members of our group. Facebook Live helps us to see real time comments about the information we are sharing. This is why I can say now that I know how people feel about the Paris Peace Accords once they understood what they really meant.
KT: Do you see yourself as a globalist or an anti-globalist?
Mr Srorn: I am a naturalist and of course a globalist, since the Paris Peace Accords were signed by global governments (eight Asean countries, India, Japan, Australia, China, US, Britain, France, Russia, Canada, Yugoslavia, UN, four Khmer political parties – CPP, Funcipec, KPNLF and the Khmer Rouge). So much of Cambodia’s freedom comes from global acts. However I consider myself more of a naturalist because I use nature and logic to analyse past histories and strategies to help solve political conflicts in Cambodia. This means I never criticise any political party. I only aim to bring about truth as realistically as possible.