August 1, 1997

Cambodia: Aftermath of the Coup

A month after Second Prime Minister Hun Sen's coup, Cambodia bears little resemblance to the society envisioned in the Paris accords of 1991 that laid the framework for an end to conflict and a United Nations peacebuilding effort on an unprecedented scale. The tension that permeated the country's political life over the past four years - since United Nations-supervised elections installed a fractious coalition government in Phnom Penh - has erupted into a protracted campaign of intimidation by Hun Sen's forces. The lack of international agreement, let alone coordination of policies, on foreign aid, human rights, refugees, and recognition of the post-coup government, has not only allowed Hun Sen to consolidate his authority, but it has greatly magnified the insecurity of political opposition members and their families. It would be a grave mistake for the international community to see elections in and of themselves as the solution to human rights violations. Elections will have no meaning unless the Cambodian government ends its persecution of the opposition and holds its forces accountable for human rights violations during and since the coup.

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