Political conflict in Cambodia, 1975-1998: Explaining the absence of peace
Violent political conflict in Cambodia has persisted for over thirty years despite a 1991 UN-brokered peace agreement. A 1975-1989 neorealist period created a hostile domestic environment, causing a cycle of violence. The regional balance of power, the acceptability of the use of force, and the primacy of nation-state actors caused this cycle. Hard-line, militaristic domestic political leaders ascended because of foreign patronage, and are inherently unwilling to compromise. This combination has sustained the top-down authoritarian approach to political rule, which has concomitantly retarded the organic growth of non-violent civil society. The post-Cold War international neoliberal shift was flawed. The colonially-constructed state and the externally-driven cycle of violence have weakened traditional royal authority and legitimacy. International negotiations ignored the domestic context and the need to build trust between individuals and groups. Thus, foreign institution-building is an incomplete step towards conflict resolution which must also address domestic political methods, local socioeconomic conditions, and indigenous culture.