peacekeepers arrived in Phnom Penh in March 1992 to supervise
the revival of Cambodia's constitutional monarchy. The following
year, elections were held and a new constitution was ratified.
Once again, Norodom Sihanouk assumed the throne, while Hun Sen
shared the office of prime minister with Sihanouk's son, Prince
Norodom Ranariddh. However, Cambodia's troubles were far from
over. Its economy was in ruins, tens of thousands of people remained
displaced and the countryside was littered with as many as 8 million
land mines. And Sen, who would oust Ranariddh in a bloody 1997
coup, was criticized for his autocratic style and human rights
distanced itself from the Khmer Rouge, America's relations with
Cambodia improved significantly in the 1990s. Congress granted
Cambodia most-favored-nation trading status and restored aid
to the government. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the
Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, which advocated bringing the
perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge's crimes to trial and provided
$400,000 to research and collect information about the genocide.
Pol Pot and other Khmer Rouge leaders continued to live freely
in Cambodia and Thailand, though they became increasingly isolated.
In 1996, almost half of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces surrendered
to the government and received amnesty. As pressure to arrest
Pol Pot mounted, the Khmer Rouge declared that it had sentenced
him to life imprisonment for his crimes. In
April 1998, the enigmatic mastermind of the killing fields died
of heart failure, disappointing those who wished to see him
brought before an internationally recognized tribunal.
To date, two Khmer Rouge leaders, including the former head
of Tuol Sleng prison, have been arrested and charged with genocide.
However, they cannot be tried until Cambodia and the United
Nations settle an ongoing dispute over how to set up genocide
tribunals. Some observers have criticized Prime Minister Hun
Sen's hesitation to aggressively pursue the Khmer Rouge leadership.
In 1999, he accepted Nuon Chea's surrender and apology, and
he has suggested that Cambodia "dig a hole and bury the past."
Recently, Sen -- a former Khmer Rouge soldier himself -- has
said he supports tribunals but wants to minimize outside interference
in establishing them.
man holding up UN voter registration card - September, 1992
is still trying to recover from one of the 20th century's most
horrific crimes against humanity. How it will recover
from this trauma remains subject to debate, both inside Cambodia
and abroad. Some say Cambodians must move on and focus on rebuilding
their country. Others say Cambodia will suffer from a "culture
of impunity" until its former leaders are held accountable for
their actions. And others insist that any examination of the
Khmer Rouge years must also address Cambodia's troubled recent
history and the United States' controversial role in it.
Journalist and Activist Dith Pran
credit: Photo Courtesy Dith Pran
Tunisian UN peace-keepers arriving in Cambodia - June 1992
credit: UN Photo 159464 / P.S. Sudhakaran
UNTAC van dispensing flyers - May, 1993
credit: UN Photo / P.S. Sudhakaran
Cambodian man holding up UN voter registration card - September,
credit: UN Photo 186058 / P.S. Sudhakaran