Politics Magazine

Cambodia: Peace Building in a Post Conflict Nation

Posted on the 14 August 2012 by Sephremers @ladystingray

Cambodia: Peace Building in a post conflict Nation


(Written by Stephanie Remers (C) 2011)

Throughout this paper I will be discussing the development of Peace in Cambodia and giving examples of the effects that it has had on its nation after the genocide, exploring the different actions that were taken to encourage Peace. I will show the main success stories which allowed for the ‘healing’ (a word I use lightly) that were largely created through grass root initiative’s. I will also give a brief comparison to the peace building practices that were put into place within the Cyprus / Turkey lines in order to maintain peace. This will just be to show further examples of what peace keeping/building is and how it can be maintained. Both are very different to the other. However I will fundamentally be concentrating on the reconstruction of Cambodia after the Genocide and how Peace Building initiatives have aided this, but how the initiatives did not stop the conflict from reoccurring.  First off, what is Peace Building and what are its ingenuities to creating peace in post conflict countries. The concept initially came about after the Cold War and the United Nations was created, it was a stratagem put in place to enable development, Reconciliation, Social transformation and Capacity building. Peace building is prerequisite to the development of peace after a conflict and its intension are to repair damaged relationships between the different parties, addressing the underlining cause of the conflicts and dealing with any psychological trauma. There are many different challenges which occur during Peace Building. In order for it to work there needs to be ability for political change, funding arrangement and international reform. Limitations are also caused by polices for example treaties which can be put into place which put pressure on the opposing sides involved in the conflict to act in certain ways, however the policies usually placed within treaties are unrealistic and within a short period of time the conflict will reoccur again or the treaty will fail, such as the Treaty of Versailles put in place after WW1 which basically encouraged the beginning of WW2. Over the last 10 years of Peace Building many lessons have been learnt. It has been discovered that Peace Building is a long term process, it requires institutional building, reconciliation, political and economic transformation, but this would not work without structural and social initiatives. Peace Building attacks the core problems that underline the conflict to change the interaction of the involving parties. It should initiate different dialogues between the different parties involved and aid in developing self-sufficiency in vulnerable post conflict societies.


In order to comprehend the development of peace in Cambodia we have to have a look at International intervention and the response they give, as they play a large part in the peace building process, of which are good and bad. I will discuss what International intervention did regarding the Genocide in Cambodia in relation to Peace Building. One of the peace building methods used was in 1951 when the genocide Convention was created; this was put in place to bring justice to the people. Unfortunately this process had little effect as genocide charges were never brought against the Khmer Rouge regime. For some reason there was not much international interest or awareness of what was happening in Cambodia. It was actually Israel who opened up the case of Genocide issues occurring in Cambodia, with the pressure that was being put on to do something about it the matter was raised at the Human Rights (UNCHR) in 1978 and a special Human Rights investigation was activated.

Because of the Genocide the Paris agreement was created, this is another form of peace keeping which can be put into practice in post conflict countries to try and make arrangement to reconciliation. The Paris Agreement was created in order to restore peace to the country, a peace building method.  This happened in two ways. The meetings were held on two occasions; 30/07/1989 and secondly on 21/10 1991. Agreements were signed at the intervention by 18 countries and Cambodia with the UN witnessing this. The purposes of the Paris Agreement where to end interference of internationals involve which would be having a hinder on its healing process. And the second was to turn a military conflict in to a political negotiation, another peace keeping method.  This basically meant getting rid of weapons and crating elections. (A non-violent process to peace).

The winning parties of the elections would receive international aid and international recognition, so there was incentive to allow the elections to work and for people to run. The responsibility of overseeing everything was left to the UN. Unfortunately as mentioned in the introduction to this paper, policies which are put into place in a society which has undergone such traumas tend to have a tendency to fail as people are not willing to comply. Unfortunately this was the case and after 1991 the troubles contained in Cambodia. The reasons for this were because Internationals were placing pressure on Cambodia; in order for peace building to really work you have to work on national reconciliation. After a war which has lasted for over a decade it was naive to assume that elections could decide the winner, the agreement also failed to disarm or crate a neutral state. David J. Francis states (2000)

“Peace agreements … do not in themselves end wars or bring about lasting peace. In most cases, pre-war links and the war mentality jeopardize the prospects of a consolidated peace and post-war reconciliation”.

Although Peace Building is a vital part of reconstructing a broken post conflict society, there has to be other methods that are looked in to, the community has to be willing to reconcile and work together.

In order for Peace building to work you also need other roles to work together, as I previously mentioned communities need to work together and you need to work on national reconciliation. One of the ways in which this worked best with Cambodia was through Grass roots. Although some international and national methods helped to form law enforcements create some justice systems and gain some structure. It was a grassroots process which strengthened the system to creating Peace and security. This is an alternative but peace building way of altering conflict resolution. Grassroots process were driven underground due to the conflict its self, however they came back together to create a civil society, and this was encourages and supported by the UN and peace building practices. This would not have worked however without the support of other organisations such as NGO’s. They can also be used as a point of contact to international organisations which are trying to support and crate peace; they are none political therefore, then to be given more leg room in communication and not causing offence within the nation itself.  With Cambodia, after the elections a bottom up approach was adopted, this enabled more support for the communities; there were actually over 400 NGO who were working in the communities to help heal the post conflicted nation. In the 1990 many of the NGO’s were run by Cambodians whose pain aim was peace building. One NGO which had great impact of re building Cambodia was the CDRA the Cambodian Development Recourse Institute. Their aim was to help re build community spirit and community development strategies.

Cyprus/Turkey Conflict:

Now the above information shows some failures and successes in different methods created from peace building, I would also like to discuss some methods which so far have resulted in a conflict not being resolved. For this I would like to use the example of Cyprus and Turkey and the roles of peacekeepers. I will use the role of the UN regarding as it is only the UN who have any involvement in the peacekeeping process there at the moment.

In February 1964 after attempts to restore peace on the island had not worked, the UK and CY requested that the Security Council of the United Nations took action, in March 1964 the Council created resolution 186 (can be viewed in full at the following link: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/186%281964%29), this meant that the United Nations would enforce peacekeeping in Cyprus.

In 1964 the UN created UNFICYP which was set up by the Security Council to prevent the two countries from fighting further.  This method is completely different from that of all the examples giving in relation to the Cambodia conflict. Cyprus and Turkey have been in conflict since 1974, since then the council has maintained a peace presence, but not force. The UNFICYP was also set up as there is no political settlement to the Cyprus/Turkey problem. The UN is there to maintain ceasefire lines, undertake humanitarian activities and maintain buffer zones. Although they are there to maintain peace it does not necessarily mean that their presence stops incident from happening, the UN web site states that there have been 181 fatalities up to day;

  • 171 military personnel
  • 3 police
  • 5 international civilians
  • 2 local civilians

(2012. United Nations Peacekeeping Force stats)

The UNFICYP cannot eliminate any chances of war in Cyprus; however its presence does shift the odds of anything happening.


The role of the UN is not to get involved in conflict. Their presence alone is merely enough to enforce/maintain ‘peace,’ amongst the lines, however similar to Cambodia and the Peace agreement, these are peace building methods which do not get to the core of the issue, perhaps if Cyprus and Turkey were to look at some more grassroots initiative and the NGO’s, of which there are thousands available, they could use community spirit to pull forces and try and come to an amicable agreement regarding the land.



Cambodia had a dark history which would leave some serious emotional scars on its people. With the atrocities that the Khmer Rouge inflicted upon many families you would feel that peace would be far from achievable. This is not to say that international intervention would be the key to solving the issues, as shown above, this can sometimes cause more a hindrance. With the Genocide Convention not healing any wounds due to no one being prosecuted, other methods had to be looked in to. From this came the Paris Conference, the pressures it placed upon everyone were for too much for anyone to adhere to.  The Paris agreement was to allow the country to have the support of international countries, and to turn what was a military war into a political one. This was achieved in a way with many political parties being created between 1991 and 2006. Nonetheless, the international pressure which was still placed upon Cambodia was not enabling national reconciliation. From looking into the history of Cambodia we can see that it was a more Social/Grassroots approach of peace keeping which allowed for healing to begin, with the support of NGO’s & Communities.  Ironically the Khmer Rouge made Buddhism illegal yet it was Buddhism’s peaceful approach to healing which had a major impact on peace. An important role was allowing for tribunals to bring justice to the crimes committed, this peace keeping process is defiantly one of the strongest, when people work together on a social scale to rebuild communities. Unlike Cyprus and Turkey, although peace keeping is in process there, it is merely keeping a watchful eye over things, it is not actually doing anything to aid the process of actual peace.  As I mentioned in the introduction in order for peace building to truly work, it is essential to the development of peace after a conflict and its intension are to repair damaged relationships between the different parties, addressing the underlining cause of the conflicts and dealing with any psychological trauma. I have highlighted the main parts in that sentence, as the UN peacekeeping which is happening in Cyprus is not doing those things, unlike the methods which were used in Cambodia in order to help towards healing a post conflict nation.   Even though it took 10 years for the tribunals to begin in Cambodia, perhaps this would not have been possible without the compassion and willingness to reconcile, the grass roots methods, the support of NGO’s and the UN, which are all methods of peace building.  Ultimately with both these cases, the Conflict’s recur or are unresolved because the root causes of the conflict are not beaning adequately dealt with. Peace building is a lengthy process, however some are mealy babysitting the conflict rather than resolving them and some are putting practices into place that are not suitable to the environment.  Perhaps if it is taken into consideration more what the root cause of the conflict is and dealing with it from the middle out, this may be a more suitable process to creating peace, as with the Cambodian case study.

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