First of all, I would like to introduce you to the Peace Institute of Cambodia (PIC). PIC envisions a peaceful and just society where well-informed citizens enjoy equal rights and social harmony. Secondly, in order to understand the motivation for the establishment of PIC and the situation of peace and conflicts in Cambodia, I have a few questions to reflect on:
What can we learn from the conflicts that Cambodian people encountered in the past and present? Is Cambodia peaceful? What is the role of PIC in building positive peace in Cambodia?
After more than 20 years of Paris Peace Agreement, Cambodia has enjoyed peace, stability, and economic development, and has the constitution that calls for a liberal democracy with the engagement of civil society. These accomplishments, however, have not been enough. Cambodia still faces significant challenges in many areas including land disputes, forced evictions, corruption, lack of an independent judiciary, and the absence of rule of law. In addition to these challenges, the impact of violence from past conflicts continues to impact the current society. Widespread impunity, a culture of fear, individual acts of violence, and systemic violence are all results of past violence. These challenges have affected peace, security, democratization, and the exercising of political rights. In particular, these challenges face those holding opinions critical of the existing structure. Political activities have frequently been met with resistance and suppression from the government.
Peace is more than the absence of war. Concerted efforts have been made to build a positive peace by promoting equity in order to lay the foundation for a fair society for the long road ahead. Yet, the ruling party has countered these advances by trying to concentrate power to control the democratization process. This has led to an imbalance in judicial, legislative and executive institutions, and social injustices that have caused additional pain and frustration. This has led to violent disputes and social instability in the present and the future if they are not addressed. If Cambodia is to fully realize a positive peace and national unity, political change in dealing with local issues is required.
PIC was established to help address social and political issues in order to bring peace and democracy to Cambodia. PIC holds the perspective that cultures of peace and democracy are upheld through education, research, and networking. PIC intends to establish a National Peace Learning Center which will include a Peace Museum, Research, Library, and Resource Center.
PIC will act as a valuable resource and hub for researchers, scholars, and other parties involved in peace work to share and benefit from their lessons learned and experience in building peace in Cambodia. PIC is planning to provide training courses to students, civil society workers, and the public relating to peace and democracy. Means of training would include exhibitions, short-term and long-term training, field trips, lectures and conferences.
Finally, PIC compiles document related to peace and conflict for future generations to read and houses them in a peace learning center for learning about conflict and peace in Cambodia. This is still a dream which we will put more effort into achieving. We do need everyone’s efforts, contributions, and partnership, in order to make this dream, comes true.
I am looking forward to having your comments and contributions.