According to Arend Zwartjes, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Cambodia, who speaks like his country has natural guardianship over the rest of the world, the United States has the right to interfere in the country’s internal affairs of Cambodia as a signatory of the Paris “Peace” Agreements of October 23, 1991.
Mr Zwartjes’ statement is not only a violation of the UN Charter (once again!) but also a breach of diplomatic practice. On this last point, this diplomat is in the direct line of vulgarity and rudeness of his president.
Beyond these considerations, two elements weaken the reasoning of this US diplomat. First of all, anyone who invokes the Paris Agreements would have good reason to read them carefully again before speaking.
Article 2 of the Agreement Concerning the Sovereignty, Independence, Territorial Integrity and Inviolability, Neutrality and National Unity of Cambodia provides that the non-Cambodian parties to the Agreements “solemnly undertake to recognise and to respect in every way the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, neutrality and national unity of Cambodia. To this end, they undertake:
“1. To refrain from entering into any military alliances or other military agreements with Cambodia that would be inconsistent with Cambodia’s neutrality, without prejudice to Cambodia’s right to acquire the necessary military equipment, arms, munitions and assistance to enable it to exercise its inherent right of self-defence and to maintain law and order;
“2. To refrain from interference in any form whatsoever, whether direct or indirect, in the internal affairs of Cambodia;
“3. To refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Cambodia, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations; (…).”
This is exactly what the US fails to respect. As has been publicly acknowledged by Kem Sokha himself, with the aim to overthrow the government (the American policy of “regime change” that creates chaos everywhere), the US directly and indirectly funds the opposition and sends in experts in violation of Cambodian law. And Mr Zwartjes’ comments confirm his government’s support for their protégé and US interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs. The irony is that this diplomat invokes the Paris Agreements that his country violates most blatantly.
Why invoke agreements that are not respected? It is actually the argument of the opposition that intends to keep alive these famous so called “peace” agreements with the hope to keep the door open for foreign interference by friendly governments. It is well known that these “peace” accords failed to bring peace and that the failure of the United Nations mission resulted in the infliction of five more years of war on the Cambodian people. The pacification of the country, which took place at the end of 1998, is the result of the win-win policy of the prime minister of Cambodia.
But this success was never recognised by the signatories of the Paris Agreements. Why was this pacification of 1998 not recognised by the UN Security Council? Because that would have meant recognition of the obsolescence of the Paris Agreements. Indeed, acknowledging that peace has occurred outside the framework of the Paris Agreements, when it was their main reason for being, is to recognise that these agreements have lost their validity as soon as the representatives of Pol Pot denied their signature in February 1992. The Paris Agreements were overtaken by this defection. At the time, the UN Security Council chose not to take this into account in order to avoid having to note the failure of the UN mission, UNTAC.
In this way, the most important provisions of the accords, that is, those which occupy dozens of pages relating to the disarmament of troops, to their demobilisation, to the opening of the entire territory to UN operations have not been applied. What is the value of an agreement if the main part of which has not been applied during the period covered by the accords? What is the legal value of an agreement from which one of the parties withdrew?
And as we know the US has supported the opposition for at least twenty years. What is the value of an international agreement systematically violated for twenty years by one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council?
Given their bloody past in Cambodia, given their permanent interference in the domestic affairs of the country, the US has no legitimacy, nor the least legal basis to invoke the obsolete Paris Agreements.
Thomas Fowler is a Cambodia watcher based in Phnom Penh.