After ten years of Vietnamese domination (1979 – 89) preceded by the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975 – 79), opened in BC, with the Paris Accords of October 1991, a difficult transition to the constitution of a democratic state. The agreements, stipulated on the basis of the peace plan formulated by the five permanent members of the United Nations, envisaged the carrying out, in 1993, of free elections under UN control, the repatriation of Cambodians who fled to Thailand in previous years, the cessation of arms trafficking and the establishment of a Supreme National Council (CNS) composed of representatives of the four main political forces Cambodians: the Cambodian People’s Party (PPC), a former pro-Vietnamese Communist Party, which under the leadership of Hun Sen had abandoned the Marxist-Leninist ideology, formally accepting multi-partyism and democracy; the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperating Cambodia (FUNCINPEC), founded by Prince Sihanouk and led by his son Ranariddh; the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (FLNPK) of the anti-communist moderate Son Sann.
According to Localcollegeexplorer, the difficulties of finding a point of agreement between such heterogeneous formations were evident: if FUNCINPEC, FLNPK and PKD were united by the struggle against the Vietnamese presence in Cambodia, the first two were equally opposed to the idea of a return of the Khmer to power and, despite their firm anti-communism, they could find more elements of agreement with the PPC, which found itself to be the most rooted party from an organizational point of view in the country, the most hostile to the PKD, but which at the same time was an expression of a ruling class ‘foreign’ and overwhelming of the ‘Khmer nation’.
The transition process had to be followed and partially run by the so-called United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC, strong 27,000 men between soldiers and officials), which had the ambitious task of facilitating the reconstruction of economic structures and the peaceful integration of all the forces representing the national will in a political fabric governed by democratic rules. However, in the period preceding the elections, political balances had already been configured unrelated to the setting of the Paris and CNS agreements and essentially based on the establishment of a PPC-FUNCINPEC axis. This alliance, resulting from the agreement on Sihanouk’s role as ruler of a new constitutional monarchy, tended to marginalize the FLNPK and take away any political role from the PKD, which reacted by boycotting the elections and the peace process, rejecting demobilization and entrenching itself in the area. northwest of Cambodia, around the city of Pailin.
Despite the action of the APRONUC, the electoral campaign was conditioned by a climate of widespread violence (especially in the countryside, often outside the range of action of the UN forces) and by the control of the media by the PPCambodia which, unsurprisingly, relied on the fear of Pol Pot’s return, against whom he stood as the only credible bulwark. The other main political forces, the FUNCINPEC, the FLNPK and the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (PLDB), on the other hand, nourished the national sentiment in an anti-Vietnamese function, while condemning the politics of the Khmer, who in the spring of 1993 carried out numerous terrorist acts pushing the exodus tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians.
In the general elections of 23 – 28 May 1993, in which almost 90 % of the population participated, FUNCINPEC won by a small measure, which obtained 58 seats, followed by the PPC with 51 seats and the PLDB with 10 seats. The outcome was contested by Hun Sen, who threatened a coup d’état and the secession of entire provinces of the country if the results were not invalidated. In this way he succeeded in obtaining the constitution of an anomalous co-premier Ranariddh-Hun Senn, respectively ‘first’ prime minister and ‘second’ prime minister of the new government which took office in October 1993., a month after Sihanouk’s accession to the throne and the launch of a new Constitution under which Cambodia became a constitutional monarchy and a ‘liberal and multi-party democracy’.
Once the UN mission was over, the history of Cambodia over the following years was essentially determined by the evolution of the balance of power between the main players on the political scene: the PPC, FUNCINPEC, the monarchy and the PKD. The relations between the PPC and the FUNCINPEC followed two distinct and tendentially opposite directions: on the one hand the political alliance was increasingly transformed into a drastic partition of the public sphere at all levels, which, in the name of stability, ended up excluding any manifestation of dissent; on the other hand, the PPC of Hun Sen, more locally rooted thanks to the control exercised over the country during the ten years of the People’s Republic of Cambodia, tried several times to prevail over an increasingly weakened monarchy (Sihanouk had long been ill and in need of care at abroad) and on the government ally itself. The dual orientation of the PPC-FUNCINPEC relations thus ended up causing two distinct effects: firstly the emergence of new political movements created by dissident members of the governing parties, secondly the return of the Khmer Rouge as possible political interlocutors at the moment. which old covenants were being challenged.
The 1994 was dominated by the issue of the Khmer Rouge and the attitude that the government should have adopted towards the PKD. Sihanouk and a part of FUNCINPEC, including Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, favored an attitude of national reconciliation dictated by the belief that a progressive improvement in the country’s economic conditions would weaken the PKD (supported essentially by the poorer classes), without the need to reach a head-on collision with a movement that controlled about 10% of the national territory. On the other hand, the PPC sided with Hun Sen and above all with the president of the National Assembly Chea Sim who, with the support of Ranariddh, managed to get the organization outlawed in July 1994, taking advantage of of an absence of the sovereign replaced for the occasion by Chea Sim himself.
The Hun Sen-Ranariddh alliance seemed to consolidate further with the exclusion of Rainsy from the government, which occurred through a ministerial reshuffle in October, which was followed by expulsion from FUNCINPEC in May 1995. Representing the small Cambodian business class, Rainsy supported the liberalization of the economy under the International Monetary Fund programs, while denouncing the excessive power of the state bureaucracy known to be corrupt at all levels.
The increasingly autocratic management of power by Hun Sen, supported by Ranariddh, provoked expressions of dissent on the part of minor parties, such as the PLDB, which were however silenced through strict control over the press and preventing the regular holding of congresses of match. This did not prevent the constitution in November 1995, of a new political formation, the Party of the Khmer Nation (PNK), founded by Rainsy and essentially constituted by a dissenting wing of FUNCINPECambodia The PNK, which in fact removed (with its program based on peace, social justice, the protection of the forest heritage) consents to the FUNCINPEC, was immediately subjected to persecution by the PPC, which arrested the general secretary, Prince Sirivudh, on charges of high treason and ordered the closure of all provincial offices.
Hun Sen’s decision to reintroduce the Vietnamese ‘liberation’ commemorative holiday of 1979, the failure of a military offensive against Khmer strongholds and, finally, the collapse of the Cambodian economy, with the suspension of international aid and the devaluation of the riel, helped remove FUNCINPEC from the PPC during 1996, fostering new alliances ahead of the 1998 general election. In the context of the changed relations in the ruling coalition, the Khmer Rouge movement, partially weakened by internal splits, was thus able to re-enter. The line of Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan was opposed, in fact, by Ieng Sary, who had formed in 1996 a movement of Khmer dissidents, the United National Democratic Movement (MDNU), which recognized the authority of the government with which it intended to enter into negotiations and whose members were amnestied, in September 1996, by King Sihanouk. This position ended up weakening above all the irreducible component represented by the old leader Pol Pot; arrested by his companions in June 1997, Pol Pot was in fact tried in July and placed under house arrest in a town on the border with Thailand, where he died on April 15, 1998 (presumably of cardiac arrest), at the age of 73.
The FUNCINPEC-MDNU rapprochement, with the support of minor political forces, such as the PNK and the new electoral alliance called United National Front (FNU), of nationalist orientation and supported by the PLDB, definitively cracked the alliance with the government during 1997. Hun Sen demanded the resignation of Ranariddh, after he had contact with Khieu Samphan, official leader of the Khmer Rouge, to allow the entrance of Khmer politics, with the exception of Pol Pot’s followers. He followed, between 4 and the 6 July, a coup by Hun Sen, which resulted in the killing of dozens of Ranariddh’s supporters, the flight of the prime minister to France and his replacement by Ing Huot (former Foreign Minister of FUNCINPEC), sanctioned by Parliament in the August 1997, not recognized by the international community and which caused the suspension of financial aid from Western countries.
In a climate of serious internal unrest and increasing violence, general elections were held on 27 July 1998 (in which, unlike in 1993, the Khmer Rouge party of Sary participated), which marked the victory of the PPC with 41 % of the votes and 64 seats, and the defeat of FUNCINPEC which dropped to 43 seats with 31, 7 % of the votes; the third political force was the party of Sam Rainsy (PSR), formerly PNK, which obtained 15 seats.