The intervention in Cambodia by the United Nations in the early 1990s was one of the costliest in the organization’s history. Some $1.6 billion was spent on an international effort involving more than 20,000 peacekeepers, observers and administrators from over 40 nations.
At the time, everyone involved seemed convinced that it was worth it. Peace was going to be restored in a country devastated by decades of civil war, starvation and genocide. Free and fair elections would be held leading to a new, democratic constitution, and a transition to a marketoriented economy, which would lift the country out of abject poverty.
As Sebastian Strangio concludes in his excellent account of Cambodia’s recent history, the population may be better off economically today than 20 years ago, but the country has, since the UN-supervised election in 1993, ‘slipped steadily backward into neoauthoritarian rule under its Prime Minister Hun Sen’.
Hun Sen, the great survivor
Hun Sen’s Cambodia Sebastian Strangio, Yale University Press, £20.00