Thirty years ago, Australia was one of 19 co-signatories to a peace settlement with Cambodia that led to the end of decades of civil war.
The Paris Peace Agreements, signed on 23 October 1991, established the principles for the creation of a free and fair democratic nation in Cambodia, based on the rule of law and the protection of human rights. Australia is committed to these principles, and committed to all Cambodians who seek to safeguard them.
Australia is proud to have played a leading role in brokering the Agreements, which laid the path for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) that facilitated the holding of free and fair elections in Cambodia in 1993. Australia has remained a close partner and friend of Cambodia ever since.
Australia’s development cooperation program makes a real difference to the lives of Cambodians, with a focus on the most vulnerable, including women and girls and people with disabilities. We support the institutions established during UNTAC to improve governance, decision-making and accountability at all levels of society. We work with Cambodia to deal with the legacies of past conflict, including the de-mining of land still contaminated by the remnants of conflict, and supporting the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunals. Australia is also partnering with Cambodia in its COVID-19 response.
Cambodia has made significant progress in improving the living conditions of its people over the past three decades, including in raising access to education, reducing maternal and infant mortality, and safeguarding gender and cultural diversity. However, Australia is deeply concerned by the deterioration in democratic freedoms and growing intolerance towards peacefully expressed dissenting views. This includes the banning of opposition parties, and the arrest and detention of civil society activists.
The rights and freedoms set out in the Paris Peace Agreements remain as indispensable today to Cambodia’s peace and prosperity as they did 30 years ago. As a longstanding friend of Cambodia, we encourage the Cambodian Government to take steps to rebuild relations with the former political opposition and civil society in advance of elections in 2022 and 2023, and to protect and preserve the right to peaceful expression of alternative views as a pathway towards a more tolerant, robust and inclusive Cambodia.