Cambodia Reborn? The Transition to Democracy and Development

Cambodia Reborn? The Transition to Democracy and Development

Cambodia Reborn? The Transition to Democracy and Development

Cambodia Reborn? The Transition to Democracy and Development

Synopsis

When United Nations sponsored elections were held in 1993, there were high hopes that Cambodia would finally be able to escape the nightmare of war, the killing fields, famine, and economic turmoil that its people had endured since 1970. Large amounts of international development assistance, a rapidly expanding NGO sector, and a pragmatic power-sharing arrangement between former adversaries, seemed to bode well for the future. Yet, as the country was once again preparing for elections in 1998, serious tensions and conflicts continued to undermine the transition process. This book examines Cambodia's uneasy renaissance from years of conflict, isolation and authoritarian rule. It assesses, in particular, the efforts of the government, NGOs, and the international community to facilitate Cambodia's various transitions to peace, democracy, and a market economy, as well as the strengthening of civil society. Copublished with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development

Excerpt

In 1970 Prince Norodom Sihanouk (the once and, since 1993, again king) was deposed by an American-backed republican coup d'etat. The coup launched a bitter and bloody civil war at a time when Cambodia increasingly was being drawn into the war in Viet Nam. The escalation of the civil war, together with the bombing of eastern and central Cambodia as part of the American "Secret War," killed more than 700,000 persons and drove millions of peasant refugees to the country's few urban areas.

Holocaust, Isolation--and War

On April 17, 1975, radical Khmer Rouge forces "liberated" the country, establishing "Democratic Kampuchea." Rather than ending the horror of the preceding years of war, a new kind of terror descended on Cambodia as the Khmer Rouge embarked on a grotesque social experiment of agrarian communism. Within days of assuming power, the Khmer Rouge evacuated all of Cambodia's cities and towns, forcing virtually the entire Cambodian population into the countryside to live and work on a communal basis. Sheer human labor was harnessed to establish a new agricultural base as the foundation for economic self- sufficiency, if not autarky. More than 1 million Cambodians died under the Maoist-inspired rule of the Khmer Rouge as the result of forced labor, starvation, lack of medical care, and wholesale execution. No . . .

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