PHNOM PENH: The horrors that Cambodia suffered during its turbulent past should serve as lessons for countries that claims to be democratic but acted against the principles of democracy.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said some countries had declared themselves a democracy while supporting a military coup that eventually gave birth to the Khmer Rouge regime.
Speaking during the 2nd Asia Pacific Summit here, Hun Sen said Cambodia had fallen victim to these countries’ foreign policy when they imposed sanctions on the government while granting the Khmer Rouge full rights and a seat at the UN from 1979 to 1991.
The Phnom Penh Post reported him saying that this decision gave birth to the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror that killed more than a million innocent people.
Hun Sen said those countries needed to reflect on their attitude to similarly avoid victimising other countries as they did to Cambodia.
The premier also expressed hope that Cambodia’s experience as a victim of those countries’ foreign policies will serve as a lesson for others to learn.
“This is an experience, not only for Cambodia but also for the whole world to learn from. It is a lesson to learn in regards to relations with other countries, how you behave towards other countries,” he said.
He also recalled how the country was rebuilt from scratch since 1979 amid economic embargoes and transformed a war-torn nation into one of the fastest growing economies in the region.
He added that despite the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement and subsequent UN-administered national elections in 1993, Cambodia did not achieve full peace until he introduced his win-win policy which saw the integration of the Khmer Rouge and the eventual end of the bloody civil war in 1998.
Hun Sen said peace and national unification was achieved by Cambodia itself without bloodshed, use of weapons or explosives and without orders or support from outsiders.
He added that since the civil war ended, Cambodia managed to develop all sectors with an average growth rate of 7.7 per cent annually.
Its poverty rate had also declined from 53.2 per cent in 2004 to lower than 10 per cent in 2019.
Cambodia is hosting this year’s summit which carries the theme: “Addressing the Critical Challenges: Peace, Reconciliation, Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity and Universal Value”.
The summit also saw representatives from seven governments – the Philippines, Myanmar, Republic of Palau, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and East Timor – giving speeches concerning past and ongoing conflicts in their countries, and their experiences in restoring peace.
Meanwhile, Myanmar Vice President U Henry Van Thio said that sustainable development cannot be achieved without peace.
He said the Myanmar government had been striving to end conflicts with armed ethnic minority groups as it was a nation of multi-religions and ethnic minorities.
“The government’s priority is to strengthen peace and to end conflicts with armed ethnic groups,” he said.