October 23, 1991 was a historic day for Cambodia and Cambodian people as Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, called Paris Peace Agreement, was signed in Paris. The signatories were the Cambodian factions, the regional powers with an interest in the conflict including Vietnam, China, and Thailand, the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, India, Australia, and nine others. The agreement signaled the beginning of the end of decades of violent conflict in Cambodia and the start of the biggest and most costly peacekeeping operation in history.
The Paris Peace Agreement was a compromise negotiated by diplomats; its feasibility was justifiably questioned. The agreement prescribed a two-step transition to democracy. First, it established an interim Supreme National Council (SNC) composed of 12 individuals: six represented the Phnom Penh regime, and six represented the three factions (two representatives for each faction) which had fought that regime throughout the 1980s. The SNC was headed by H.M. King Norodom Sihanouk. Second, the United Nations became responsible for a transitional period in Cambodia during which peace would be established along with a “neutral political environment” to permit organization and conduct of free and fair elections to determine the political future of the country. To create this “neutral political environment” the factions agreed to the dismantling, by the United Nations, of 70 percent of their military forces, and agreed that the United Nations would exercise control over the existing Cambodian governmental administrative structures. [Download]