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Cambodia: 1991

1956: Cambodia

1957: Cambodia
1958: Cambodia
1959: Cambodia
1960: Cambodia
1961: Cambodia
1962: Cambodia
1963: Cambodia
1964: Cambodia
1965: Cambodia
1966: Cambodia
1967: Cambodia
1968: Cambodia
1969: Cambodia
1970: Cambodia
1971: Cambodia
1972: Cambodia (Khmer Republic)
1973: Cambodia (Khmer Republic)
1974: Cambodia (Khmer Republic)
1975: Cambodia
1976: Cambodia
1977: Cambodia
1978: Cambodia
1979: Cambodia
1980: Cambodia
1981: Cambodia
1982: Cambodia
1983: Cambodia
1984: Cambodia
1985: Cambodia
1986: Cambodia
1987: Cambodia
1988: Cambodia
1989: Cambodia
1990: Cambodia
1991: Cambodia
1992: Cambodia
1993: Cambodia
1994: Cambodia
1995: Cambodia
1996: Cambodia
1997: Cambodia
1998: Archaeology: Radar Reveals Hidden Ruins in Cambodia
1998: Cambodia: Hun Sen Declares Election Victory
1998: Pol Pot Dies at 73
1998: Coalition Government

Archives consist of articles that originally appeared in Collier's Year Book (for events of 1997 and earlier) or as monthly updates in Encarta Yearbook (for events of 1998 and later). Because they were published shortly after events occurred, they reflect the information available at that time. Cross references refer to Archive articles of the same year.


1991: Cambodia

After more than two decades of civil war, Cambodia's warring factions finally signed a peace treaty in October 1991. The four factions were the regime in Phnom Penh installed by Vietnam in 1979, led by Premier Hun Sen; the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge (in power from 1975 to 1979, under the leadership of Pol Pot); and two non-Communist groups, the followers of Prince Norodom Sihanouk (ousted in a coup that toppled the monarchy in 1970), and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, an independent group led by former Premier Son Sann. As the year ended, however, violent demonstrations in the capital posed a grave threat to the peace process.

Peace Accord.

The peace negotiations involved a series of meetings cosponsored by France and Indonesia and convened intermittently over two years in Paris, Jakarta, Thailand, Hanoi, and Beijing. The treaty, signed in Paris on October 23, was sponsored by the United Nations Security Council and witnessed by representatives of 18 nations. It provided for an immediate cease-fire; formation of a transitional coalition government, the Supreme National Council (SNC), representing all four factions, with Sihanouk serving as chairman and interim head of state; and free national elections to be scheduled in 1993. The transition phase and election process was to be monitored by the United Nations, involving some 20,000 personnel in what would be the international body's largest such assignment since its inception. The UN was also empowered to run certain key ministries during the transition period (including defense, foreign affairs, finance, and communications).

The Khmer Rouge.

Memories of the terrors and "killing fields" massacres of the Pol Pot regime remained vivid, and there was anxiety that the Khmer Rouge, which had not significantly changed its leadership or ideology since being in power under Pol Pot, would somehow regain a dominating role. U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker delivered a scathing condemnation of the Khmer Rouge before signing the UN peace treaty, calling the rebel group's past policies and practices "an abomination to humanity" and stating that the United States would willingly support efforts "to bring to justice those responsible for the mass murders of the 1970s." An attempt by the Khmer Rouge in the early fall to forcibly repatriate refugees to its own territory from a camp it controls in Thailand brought a warning from Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and the five permanent members of the Security Council. In mid-November, with the arrival of the first members of the UN peacekeeping force in Cambodia, diplomats and relief workers charged that the Khmer Rouge was concealing troops and weapons in remote areas, in violation of the peace accord.

A Fragile Peace.

The fragility of the peace accord was soon demonstrated on another front. Although Prince Sihanouk received a tumultuous welcome when he returned to Phnom Penh on November 14, thousands of angry demonstrators met the Khmer Rouge delegation headed by Khieu Samphan when it returned on November 27, and some of them attacked Khieu Samphan physically, forcing him to flee back to Thailand. Violent demonstrations in December in Phnom Penh, partly to protest Khieu Samphan's expected return, set for December 21, partly to protest rampant government corruption, led Hun Sen to declare that he could not guarantee safety for the Khmer Rouge officials. Amid heavy security — and restrictions by the Hun Sen regime on freedom of expression — Khieu Samphan returned at the end of the month, and the Supreme National Council held its first meeting in Cambodia.

Costs of War.

The war left Cambodia with an injured, debilitated, and dislocated people, a shattered economic and social infrastructure, and a legacy of fear and suspicion. Continuing aid will be needed to resettle Cambodia's returning refugees, to rebuild the country's infrastructure, and to restore the productive capacity of land.

The prolonged conflict left Cambodia with a gross domestic product of around US$200 per capita, among the lowest in Asia. Runaway military expenditures and monetary expansion fueled inflation and debased the local currency (the riel), which was not exchanged internationally in 1991 and not supported by any known reserves. Even local merchants often insisted on barter or on foreign currency to complete transactions. Most sought quick profits, importing such things as smuggled cigarettes or motorcycles and exporting gemstones, hardwoods, and other valuables. A cut in trade credits from the Soviet Union (which had been running around US$100 million per annum) had created shortages in oil products, fertilizers, cement, and steel. Severe food shortages were aggravated by drought and by cutbacks in both Western and Chinese aid.

Economic Prospects.

The cessation of hostilities was expected to encourage foreign trade and investment. Cambodia, like Vietnam and Laos, had liberalized its foreign investment law to attract new commercial and venture capital, but few potential investors were responding. Reconstruction contracts were expected to bring in foreign firms, providing work for some of the demobilized soldiers and other unemployed and boosting local food supplies, materials, manufacturing, and services. Prospects for reviving Cambodia's tourist industry (the temple of Angkor Wat had long been a popular tourist destination) held considerable income and foreign exchange potential. An Australian firm was building a bridge across the Mekong River, connecting Cambodia with Vietnam, which Cambodian officials hoped would provide additional economic impetus and promote further integration of the two economies.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® Encyclopedia 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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