Limited Progress on Free Elections, Human Rights, and Mine Clearing Gao ID: NSIAD-96-15BR February 29, 1996

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1991 ended years of devastating civil war and started Cambodia on the road to building a democratic civil society. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, established to carry out the accords, supervised the withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Cambodia, repatriated more than 360,000 refugees, improved human rights conditions, and conducted free and fair national elections in 1993. The Authority concluded its mission in late 1993 with the formation of a duly elected government in Cambodia. This briefing report provides information on Cambodia's progress since 1993. GAO discusses (1) Cambodia's prospects for holding free and fair national elections by 1998; (2) its progress in meeting international human and political rights standards; and (3) its progress in clearing millions of land mines left over from decades of war.

GAO found that: (1) Cambodia lacks the electoral framework and the human and financial resources needed to support the elections process, has done little to prepare for national elections, and has fallen behind its proposed timetable for holding elections by mid-1998; (2) opposition parties' lack of fair access to the media and the disparity in the relative strengths of the political parties also present obstacles to holding free and fair elections; (3) although conditions have improved since the end of its civil war, Cambodian military and police forces remain ineffective and corrupt, few Cambodians receive due process or fair trials, and official corruption is widespread and growing; (4) recent government actions suggest increasing intolerance for dissenting opinion; (5) the presence of millions of land mines imposes a heavy economic and social burden on Cambodia, since the mines deny access to vast tracts of farmland, forests, and other natural resources and also interfere with the resettlement and reintegration of refugees; and (6) while the U.S. government has provided some funds, training, equipment, and supplies for mine clearing, the Cambodian government's lack of leadership, planning, and funding for mine clearing are among the most important factors explaining the lack of progress in this area.

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