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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1245

Senator CARR —My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the current situation regarding the establishment of a new government in Cambodia? What steps are being taken to withdraw the UN forces from that country?

Senator COOK —Friday, 24 September, was an important day for people in Cambodia. On that day they promulgated the new Cambodian national constitution, which was a vital step forward for the independence of that country. Today is equally a very important day for Cambodia. The significance of today is that for the first time the newly constituted national assembly is meeting in Phnom Penh.

  On behalf of the Australian government—and I believe I speak for the Senate in this as well—I extend my warmest congratulations to the national assembly of Cambodia in its first meeting in Phnom Penh today. I congratulate not only the members of that assembly, but all those who have helped achieve this outstanding outcome, including many important Australians.

  This previously shattered nation has been rendered whole now, with its own democratically elected national assembly assuming responsibilities for ongoing peace and stability in that country. It means that the United Nations brokered peace process in Cambodia has achieved its primary objective of returning to the Cambodian people the responsibility for their own destiny. We acknowledge and salute this outstanding achievement of the United Nations peacekeeping force.

  UNTAC's mandate formally ended on 24 September, the day on which the new constitution was promulgated. Under the constitution, Cambodia has become a constitutional monarchy, under which the monarch reigns but does not govern. Prince Ranariddh and Mr Hun Sen were appointed co-prime ministers. On the same day, Prince Sihanouk took office as King of Cambodia. The progressive withdrawal of UNTAC personnel is proceeding, including that of the Australian Defence Force contingent, and it is to be completed by 15 November this year.

  Australia shares the sense of celebration and satisfaction surrounding these developments in Cambodia. It has extended warm congratulations to King Sihanouk and the two prime ministers, Prince Ranariddh and Mr Hun Sen. It should be remembered that Australia has made a significant contribution to the peacekeeping process, and the government commends all those Australians involved. Particular mention must be made of Lieutenant-General Sanderson, who has served as military commander of UNTAC with great distinction. I think particular mention should be made of foreign minister Gareth Evans for his distinguished service in helping bring about this outcome.

  The future of Cambodia is now in the hands of the Cambodians, but it is the nature of the peace accord that the settlement process does not end with the completion of UNTAC's mandate; rather, it is a continuing international process by which the signatories are committed in a variety of ways to assisting Cambodia. These include the reconstruction of Cambodia through their involvement in the International Committee of Reconstruction in Cambodia; assistance on human rights questions through the Special Representative Commission on Human Rights; and assistance through whatever individual countries may do bilaterally.

  Australia is committed to supporting the new government. Our aid program is generous and is directed towards humanitarian and development needs, including a contribution to the removal of mines from that country. The people of Australia wish the people of Cambodia peace and prosperity as Cambodians begin the task of transforming and reconstructing this brutalised nation. We look forward to Cambodia's full and fruitful partnership with Australia and with other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.