HANOI - Cambodia on Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements that brought to an end nearly 13 years of civil war in the Southeast Asian country, celebrating its reintegration into the international community and economic progress since the landmark deal.
Critics of the authoritarian administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in power since 1985, are urging it to respect the principles laid out in the 1991 agreement, calling for the creation of a free and fair democratic nation in Cambodia and the protection of human rights.
At a ceremony marking the anniversary Prak Sokhonn, who serves as vice prime minister and foreign minister, said the peace accord constituted a positive turning point in the country's history.
But he also said, "Democracy and human rights have been used as tools for some major powers to carry out their strategies," expressing his objection to the United States and European countries, which have condemned Cambodia for leading a sustained crackdown on forces opposing to the government.
The Paris Peace Agreements, signed by Cambodia's four conflicting parties and 18 other countries, formally ended the civil war by giving the United Nations responsibility for overseeing free elections for the nation's parliament and developing a human rights program.
While the government successfully continued to reconstruct the country, with last year's gross domestic product 10 times more than in 1993 when the new Constitution was promulgated, democracy has experienced a setback.
The country's largest opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was forced to dissolve in 2017. Since then, there has effectively been no force in opposition to the administration of Hun Sen.
The prime minister has repeatedly said that the peace accord is a thing of the past. Last year the government pulled the anniversary, Oct. 23, from its list of national holidays.
Still, in commemoration of the 30th anniversary, the National Bank of Cambodia on Monday issued new banknotes printed with a photo showing Hun Sen together with Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk, according to a report by Xinhua News Agency.
It is the first time that a portrait of Hun Sen has been printed on banknotes and some critics say he is using the bills to cement his authority.
Sam Rainsy, a former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party who is in self-exile abroad, has said anyone criticizing the administration could be arrested immediately. He is urging other countries to pay close attention to the situation in Cambodia, which will hold a lower house election in 2023.
FROM THE ARCHIVES