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

PARIS AGREEMENT

Annex 2. Withdrawal, Ceasefire and Related Measures

Article V. Ultimate disposition of the forces of the Parties and of their arms, ammunition and equipment

1. In order to reinforce the objectives of a comprehensive political settlement, minimise the risks of a return to warfare, stabilize the security situation and build confidence among the Parties to the conflict, all Parties agree to undertake a phased and balanced process of demobilisation of at least 70 per cent of their military forces. This process shall be undertaken in accordance with a detailed plan to be drawn up by UNTAC on the basis of the information provided under Article I of this annex and in consultation with the Parties. It should be completed prior to the end of the process of registration for the elections and on a date to be determined by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

2. The Cambodian Parties hereby commit themselves to demobilise all their remaining forces before or shortly after the elections and, to the extent that full demobilisation is unattainable, to respect and abide by whatever decision the newly elected government that emerges in accordance with Article 12 of this Agreement takes with regard to the incorporation of parts or all of those forces into a new national army. Upon completion of the demobilisation referred to in paragraph 1, the Cambodian Parties and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General shall undertake a review regarding the final disposition of the forces remaining in the cantonments, with a view to determining which of the following shall apply:

a) If the Parties agree to proceed with the demobilisation of all or some of the forces remaining in the cantonments, preferably prior to or otherwise shortly after the elections, the Special Representative shall prepare a timetable for so doing, in consultation with them;

b) Should total demobilisation of all of the residual forces before or shortly after the elections not be possible, the Parties hereby undertake to make available all of their forces remaining in cantonments to the newly elected government that emerges in accordance with Article 12 of this Agreement, for consideration for incorporation into a new national army. They further agree that any such forces which are not incorporated into the new national army will be demobilised forthwith according to a plan to be prepared by the Special Representative. With regard to the ultimate disposition of the remaining forces and all the arms, ammunition and equipment, UNTAC, as it withdraws from Cambodia, shall retain such authority as is necessary to ensure an orderly transfer to the newly elected government of those responsibilities it has exercised during the transitional period.

Implementation History

1991

No Implementation

The United Nations Advance Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) became operational as soon as the Paris Agreement was signed in October 1991. Brigadier-General Michel Loridon (France), Senior Military Liaison Officer, assumed command of the military elements of UNAMIC on November 12, 1991. As agreed upon in the Paris Agreement, the involved parties had to demobilize 70 percent of their rival armies. However, as of December 1991, the UN had failed to approve a budget or decide on the strength of the force it would send to Cambodia to monitor the ceasefire and demobilization of 70 percent of the rival armies and help run the country before the UN-supervised elections.1

1992

No Implementation

Demobilization was several months behind schedule. Military reform had yet to begin.

1993

No Implementation

After the May 1993 election, the new Army brought together forces previously under the control of former Prime Minister Hun Sen (i.e., the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)), the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC), and the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF). The Khmer Rouge fighters were not part of the new armed force, which started offensive attacks against the Khmers.2 The army remained unreformed and military brutality continued in secret military camps.

  • 2. “Cambodia's Army, Now Unified, Attacks Recalcitrant Khmer Rouge,” Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), August 26, 1993.
1994

Minimum Implementation

The Cambodian military remained the most unorganized armed force. In October 1994, Lieutenant General Proche Bunthol, a spokesman for the general staff, highlighted three main problems with regards to the importance of military reform: "The first problem we have to solve is corruption. Second, we must (be able to) give the real number of soldiers. Third, the military must work to increase security in the country" (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 1994). In order to reform the national armed force, the government initiated a new bill to reform the army in October 1994.3

  • 3. “Murder, torture, corruption charges: Cambodia's infamous army,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, October 18, 1994.
1995

Intermediate Implementation

A major military reform took place in Cambodia during March 1995. The Cambodian Defense Ministry announced major cuts in its officer corps, with the number of generals slashed from around 2,000 to a number less than 200. Similarly, the number of colonels after the cuts went down from over 10,000 to 307. All 199 of the one-, two-, and three-star generals survived the reform.4 The reform was intended to please the major donor countries in order to spur military support.

  • 4. “Cambodia slashes back generals and colonels,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, March 17, 1995.
1996

Intermediate Implementation

In June 1996, new legislation was passed that related to the neutralization of the Cambodian military. It prohibited members of political factions from holding positions in the armed forces and required that the armed forces choose between their political and military posts. It also required that the armed forces personnel give up their party positions and their seats in the National Assembly. The bill effectively neutralized the armed forces.5 The government was also planning on scaling down its military from about 130,000 troops to about 70,000.

1997

Intermediate Implementation

No developments observed this year. 

1998

Intermediate Implementation

The new elements of the demobilization process were designed to be part of broader military reform. The demobilization process began after a pause of some years. In December 1998, Tea Banh, Co-Defence Minister, said that the government had formulated a plan to demobilize up to tens of thousands of soldiers each year.6

A new integrated armed force was formed. The new integrated armed forces fought amongst themselves for two days of clashes in Phnom Penh. FUNCINPEC military leaders were executed in extrajudicial killings.

  • 6. “Cambodia: Minister on Troop Demobilization,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, December 21, 1998.
1999

Intermediate Implementation

The demobilization process was a part of broader military reform initiatives. On January 15, 1999, “the Royal Government of Cambodia announced that it would demobilize 79,000 troops - 55,000 soldiers in the Cambodian Royal Armed Forces and 24,000 policemen - over a five-year period. According to a press communiqué from the Information Ministry dated 15th January 15, 1999, Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen submitted this proposal to the Council of Ministers' session on the morning of January 15. The proposal was adopted at the meeting. The communiqué further said that, in order to facilitate this demobilization process, the Royal Government planned to set aside a budget to provide 1,200 dollars currency not further specified each to the demobilized personnel who would also be given vocational training in enterprises and guidance to get a job to earn a living.”7

On 25 February 1999, the Cambodian government appealed to “donor countries and international financial institutions to provide 104m dollars in financial, technical and material support over the next five years for demobilizing 55,000 soldiers. Sok An, senior minister in charge of the office of the council of ministers, made the request in a statement on the opening day of a two-day donor conference in Tokyo. He also disclosed a timetable for downsizing the army, saying 11,500 soldiers would be cut in 2000, 11,000 in 2001, 20,500 in 2002 and the remaining 12,000 in 2003” (BBC, 1999). The government estimated that there were 148,000 soldiers. However, this figure was widely disputed. Upon completion of the program, the government estimated the share of defense in recurrent expenditure would be reduced from the 1998 figure of 35.8 percent to about 20 percent.8

As part of the reform program, 14 military officials were promoted to the rank of brigadier-general and 23 others to the rank of major-general. The promotions were "part of the army restructuring and demobilization efforts to divert the budget from this sector to the social services.”9

At a donor conference, Cambodia stated that it had discovered 15,551 "ghost" soldiers and 159,587 dependents. However, purging these individuals from the payroll has been a slow process. It was also reported that, at the end of September 1999, the number of illegal weapons confiscated consisted of 16,412 rifles, 11 land mines, and 345 hand grenades.10

At a conference, it was reported that people had voluntarily turned in 5,655 rifles, 190 hand grenades, and 332 land mines, and that the government had destroyed 20,112 rifles.11

More than 5,000 royalist fighters, who had broken away from the Cambodian armed forces following a bloody 1997 coup, officially rejoined the military during a ceremony held on Friday, February 26, 1999. These troops had rebelled after their leader, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was effectively ousted as co-prime minister by rival Cambodian leader Hun Sen. The ceremony marked the final integration of rebel forces into the army. However, there was a dispute on how many royalist soldiers were integrated. Prince Ranariddh claimed to have 10,000 troops, while Hun Sen's government claimed to have 5,011. The sides were expected to hold further talks to resolve the dispute. Thousands of Khmer Rouge fighters were integrated into the army in recent months due to the collapse of the guerrilla movement from mass defections.12

  • 7. “Cambodia to Demobilize 79,000 Security Personnel Over Five Years,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, January 18, 1999.
  • 8. “Cambodia Seeks 104M to Demobilize Soldiers at Japan Aid Conference,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, February 25, 1999.
  • 9. “Cambodia: Army Officers Promoted as Part of Restructuring Programme,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, March 3, 1999.
  • 10. “Cambodia donors satisfied but military demobilization slow,” BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political, October 29, 1999.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. “Royalist resistance forces rejoin Cambodian army,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, February 26, 1999.
2000

Intermediate Implementation

Military reform continued along with the demobilization process. “The last experimental demobilization was held in Battambang Province involving 421 troops starting from 11th July, 2000.”13 The World Bank was also involved in the demobilization process – it provided 15 million dollars for military demobilization in Cambodia in 2001. The World Food Program (WFP) also promised to provide rice for demobilized soldiers. “In a pilot project, the government had cut off 1,500 soldiers from government's pay rolls while WFP had assisted. 150 kilograms of rice to each demobilized soldier.”14 This process was plagued by corruption, so much so that the funders decided to withhold funds.

NOTE: The World Bank awarded Cambodia a loan of 18.4 million dollars in 2001 to be used towards achieving the objective of military reform. The program would involve the demobilization of some 30,000 soldiers. “This DDR process only affects people who have already been integrated into the armed forces, and is aimed at leaving troop numbers at between 70,000 and 80,000. Reform of the armed forces has been delayed by mistakes committed during the DDR process and by a lack of sufficient funding. The reforms that remain to be implemented will have to deal with the demobilization of a number of inactive troops and a larger number of officers. The World Bank calculated in 1991 that DDR would lead to a saving of 10.3 million dollars a year in military spending. However, in October 2006, Government approved the compulsory military service, against the Armed Forces reduction plans, justified by the high unemployment level of young people in the country.”15 By 2006, Cambodia still had 110,000 soldiers, which were expected to be downsized to 70,000 in the future.16