Constitutional Reform: Framework for a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict

PARIS AGREEMENT

Section I. Transition Period

Article 1

For the purposes of this Agreement, the transitional period shall commence with the entry into force of this Agreement and terminate when the constituent assembly elected through free and fair elections, organized and certified by the United Nations, has approved the constitution and transformed itself into a legislative assembly, and thereafter a new government has been created.

Part II. Elections

Article 12

The Cambodian people shall have the right to determine their own political future through the free and fair election of a constituent assembly, which will draft and approve a new Cambodian Constitution in accordance with Article 23 and transform itself into a legislative assembly, which will create the new Cambodian Government. This election will be held under United Nations auspices in a neutral political environment with full respect for the national sovereignty of Cambodia.

Part VII. Principles for a New Constitution for Cambodia

Article 23

Basic principles, including those regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as regarding Cambodia's status of neutrality, which the new Cambodian Constitution will incorporate, are set forth in annex 5.

Annex 5. Principles for a New Constitution for Cambodia

1. The constitution will be the supreme law of the land. It may be amended only by a designated process involving legislative approval, popular referendum, or both.

2. Cambodia's tragic recent history requires special measures to assure protection of human rights. Therefore, the constitution will contain a declaration of fundamental rights, including the rights to life, personal liberty, security, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, assembly and association including political parties and trade unions, due process and equality before the law, protection from arbitrary deprivation of property or deprivation of private property without just compensation, and freedom from racial, ethnic, religious or sexual discrimination. It will prohibit the retroactive application of criminal law. The declaration will be consistent with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international instruments. Aggrieved individuals will be entitled to have the courts adjudicate and enforce these rights.

3. The constitution will declare Cambodia's status as a sovereign, independent and neutral State, and the national unity of Cambodian people.

4. The constitution will state that Cambodia will follow a system of liberal democracy, on the basis of pluralism. It will provide for periodic and genuine elections. It will provide for the right to vote and to be elected by universal and equal suffrage. It will provide for voting by secret ballot, with a requirement that electoral procedures provide a full and fair opportunity to organize and participate in the electoral process.

5. An independent judiciary will be established, empowered to enforce the rights provided under the constitution.

6. The constitution will be adopted by a two-thirds majority of the members of the constituent assembly.

Implementation History

1991

Intermediate Implementation

The process of constitutional reform in Cambodia began after the formalization of the Supreme National Council (SNC) and before the formal signing of the Paris Agreement. On September 25, 1991, the SNC of Cambodia agreed on the number of seats in the Constituent Assembly, the number of members of the Constituent Assembly that could be adopted in a new constitution, and the time frame for the organization of elections. These were supplements to the draft agreement on Cambodia. The SNC decided that there would be 120 seats in the Constituent Assembly, and that the Constituent Assembly could adopt the new constitution only with two-thirds of its members’ votes. The Supreme National Council also agreed to organize elections within six months from the first day of electoral registration.1

The National Assembly of Cambodia amended Cambodia’s constitution to make the constitutional clauses suitable to the new developments in political liberalization. The constitution was now in accordance with democracy and national reconciliation, and also particularly constructed to conform to the implementation of the peace agreement.2

  • 1. “Cambodian SNC Reaches Three More Agreements,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, October 2, 1991.
  • 2. “National Assembly Meets to Adopt Measures Following Recent Unrest,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, December 30, 1991.
1992

Intermediate Implementation

In a SNC meeting on September 10, “HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk proposed the setting up of a committee to work out the principles for a new constitution and suggested that the committee should be composed of three members from the Phnom Penh administration and one member from each of the other three parties, and the representatives of UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) . HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk, in replying to the question raised by Mr Ieng Muli with regard to the mandate of the SNC and UNTAC, stated that the task of the committee was to facilitate the work of a Constituent Assembly. The proposal of HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk was agreed on."3

  • 3. “Phnom Penh and FUNCINPEC Release Communiques on 10th September SNC Meeting,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, 25 September 1992.
1993

Full Implementation

The elections for the Constituent Assembly took place from May 23 to 28, 1993.
The Constitution Drafting Committee began writing the Cambodian constitution on July 1 and finished it on August 18, 1993. The draft of Cambodia's 120-article constitution was scheduled to be presented to HRH Prince Norodom Sihanouk in Pyongyang, North Korea on August 31, 1993.4

Debate over the draft constitution began in the Constituent Assembly on September 15, 1993.5 On September 21, 1993, the Constituent Assembly of Cambodia adopted a new constitution. The new constitution formally adopted a constitutional monarch.6

  • 4. “Hun Sen, Ranariddh and Chea Sim to present constitution to Sihanouk in Pyongyang,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, August 23, 1993.
  • 5. “Constituent Assembly begins constitution debate,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, September 16, 1993.
  • 6. “Son Sann's closing speech at Constituent Assembly: constitution adopted,” BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, September 22, 1993.
1994

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1995

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1996

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1997

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1998

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

1999

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2000

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.