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Response to article: Foreign Minister Critical of UNTAC's efforts
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By Vireak In


IIn the article “Foreign Minister Critical of Untac’s Efforts”  where Cambodia’s foreign minister Hor Namhong said “The UN’s transitional authority, which occupied Cambodia in the early 1990s, did little for the country except put an election in place in 1993, but failed to end the country’s war”. 

As a former UN staff in Cambodia, I find his comment somewhat offensive.  I expect more from the leader.  I join “Lao Monghay, a former member of the KPNLF who is now a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, who said Hor Namhong’s criticism of UNTAC overlooked the work the peacekeepers did accomplish”.
Foreign minister Hor Namhong ignore the humanitarian work which UNTAC carry out before the 1993 election, the repatriation of some 360,000 refugees from camps along Khmer-Thai border.  Most of the refugees were civilians, rice farmers from north-western Cambodia, who had sought refuge on the Thai border from the ongoing conflicts following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime following the invasion of the Vietnamese in 1979.  Some refugees escape from the government that mean to provide them sanctuary, but fail to do so, instead people face with intimidation, starvation just to name a few, wonder why foreign minister Hor Namhong fail to acknowledge such a wonderful job by UNTACT.

At the time, the repatriation was considered to be the biggest operation ever undertaken by UN, many critic do not believe it is possible to carry out such an operation.  Repatriate 360, 000 from Khmer-Thai border and then integrate the returnees into the community of their choice, issue the identification cards for all returnees so they are ready for the 1993 election.

I still remember the joy when the first convoy across the border and make their way to Sisophon, many of the children were born in the Camp and return to the country that they never knew, but they call it home.  I still remember when we accompany the first envoy to Stung Treng, the road was so bad that we have make our trip by Helicopter.  I still remember when we accompany returnee to the no-go zone, yet it was the wish of the returnees. I still remember how taught it was to negotiate land for returnees, some allocated land were so heavy laid with land-mine, thank to Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) returnees can settle safely in the allocated land.

Under the leadership of the late special envoy Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the repatriation operation was a very successful one.  Sérgio Vieira de Mello (March 15, 1948 - August 19, 2003) was a Brazilian United Nations (UN) diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.  He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 21 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq.  The man whom I greatly admire and have the pleasure to work with.

It is undeniable that UNTAC has done so much for Cambodia, as in the word of President Sam Rainsy from the same article “Beyond the elections, the UN and the accords helped oust a Vietnamese force that would have had people living under a communist regime even today”.