The Cambodian experience:
A success story still?
So much was promised to the Cambodian people by the United Nations in its role as the Transitional Authority from 1992 to 1993 that it is all the more poignant they find themselves in a state which remains largely lawless some nine years after the Paris peace agreements were signed in October 1991. While the tragic country has a long history of extra-judicial killings carried out with impunity by those in power, the opportunity to make the responsible authorities at least answerable to the people through the ballot box seems to have been less than successful in producing a form of properly consensual government.
Some people might find this judgement too harsh, given that the Cambodian government has shape and form, the country has membership in most international organizations, has undisputed representation in many capitals, is a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the former opposing factions have, in theory, surrendered their authority over sections of the Cambodian countryside to the coalition in Phnom Penh. All these things are true enough, and this may be a reflection of the world at large, but laws in Cambodia continue to be made at the whim of the controlling élite rather than the legislature, and justice does not exist for the large majority of Cambodians. The opposition exercises its privileges at the discretion of the executive rather than by law, as it does in liberal democracies, and there is a distinct sense of foreboding and awe associated with anyone or anything that confronts this reality. At the risk of banishment or death, some very