International Operation Name: United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)
International Operation Dates: 1992/02/28 – 1993/09/24
Mandating Organization: United Nations
Region Name: Asia
Canadian Operation Name: Operation MARQUIS
Canadian Operation Dates: 1992/03/15 – 1993/11/30
Authorized under United Nations Security Council Resolution 745 on 28 February 1992, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was given the job of implementing a cease-fire agreement (the Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict) signed in October 1991. It was tasked with the conduct of free and fair general elections, military arrangements, civil administration, the maintenance of law and order the repatriation and resettlement of the Cambodian refugees and displaced persons and the rehabilitation of essential Cambodian infrastructure during the transitional period.
UNSCR 718(1991), 745(1992),
In the years following the Second World War, Cambodia was torn apart by internal strife and the fall out of the Vietnam War that culminated in the four-year reign of terror under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. In 1978 the Vietnamese army stepped in and occupied Cambodia replacing the pro-Chinese Khmer Rouge with a new Cambodian leadership, also communist but aligned through the Vietnamese to the Soviet Union. They kept this government in power through most of the 1980s by maintaining a large Vietnamese army of occupation in the country. The occupation resulted in the emergence of three separate resistance groups in the country.
The United Nations Security Council first considered the Cambodian situation in 1979 following the Vietnamese intervention the year before, and continued its efforts throughout the 1980s to find resolution to the conflict. In fact, negotiations only began in earnest when, following the fall of the iron curtain, the Vietnamese announced that they would withdraw their army by September 1989. In July – August 1989, the parties and 19 countries attended the Paris Conference on Cambodia. The Conference succeeded in mapping out a broad strategy for peace, but was suspended without achieving a comprehensive settlement. Nevertheless, sufficient progress had been made that the five permanent members of the Security Council continued negotiations in an attempt to build a workable framework for a peace agreement. In September 1990 they brought a proposal before the four parties and won agreement on the formation of a Supreme National Council (SNC). Negotiations then commenced on fleshing out the framework.
On 1 October 1991 the second session of the Paris Conference on Cambodia met and produced a peace plan that became known as the Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict. On 30 October 1991 following a month of negotiations, the Secretary-General informed the Security Council of the signing of the Paris Agreements, and that the Agreements invited the Security Council to establish the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).
The signing of the Paris Accords set the stage for one of the most ambitious peacekeeping operations ever undertaken by the UN. With the creation of UNTAC in the planning stages, the United Nations deployed the United Nations Advanced Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) to bridge the gap between the signing of the peace accords and the time when the full UNTAC mission could be put on the ground in Cambodia, a period estimated to be no longer than six months. UNAMIC deployed to the field on 16 October 1991 to help monitor the ceasefire agreement, and begin the work of registering Cambodians for the upcoming elections. However, shortly after arriving, it became clear that there was an urgent need for a de-mining effort, thus in January the UN expanded the mission from its original 200 personnel to 1090 and expanded its de-mining program.
In concert with the deployment of UNAMIC and in support of the plan, the Security Council passed Resolution 718(1991), but held off on the creation of UNTAC since the plan also noted the intention of the Secretary –General to send a survey mission to Cambodia to prepare an operations plan for the Council’s approval. To this end, the United Nations established a twelve-man team which was to “evaluate modalities of control, and an appropriate number of United Nations personnel to control the cease-fire and the cessation of foreign military aids in cooperation with the SNC military working group.” They were also to follow up on the recommendation of the five permanent members of the Security council to dispatch a mission which would “begin the process of preparing for the military aspects of UNTAC and could consider how the Secretary-General of the United Nations can use his good offices to help maintain the unlimited informal cease-fire now in effect” in Cambodia. The survey team was to be comprised of senior officers from six countries and members of the United Nations staff. The team, which included a Canadian lieutenant-colonel logistician, conducted its survey between 19 August and 11 September 1991, and on 19 February 1992 the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council the implementation plan for UNTAC based upon its findings.
In February 1992 the United Nations passed Resolution 745 (1992) establishing the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and on 15 March the mission commenced operations. UNTAC was a joint military-civilian mission intended to help bring peace and stability to the war-torn nation. UNTAC’s was tasked with the conduct of free and fair general elections, military arrangements, civil administration, the maintenance of law and order the repatriation and resettlement of the Cambodian refugees and displaced persons, and the rehabilitation of essential Cambodian infrastructure during the transitional period. Eventually, the mission would comprise 20,000 international staff, and more than 50,000 local workers.
Under UNAMIC, Canada had committed 103 personnel in Operation MARQUIS. When UNTAC took over from UNAMIC in March 1992, that number continued to grow so that between March 1992 and November 1993 approximately 240 Canadian Forces personnel participated at any one time. The Canadian contribution included mainly engineers, headquarters and logistics staff, and transportation personnel (the latter as 92 Transport Company), but also thirty naval observers who served with UNTAC’s Maritime component. While some Canadian civilians served as administrative workers and electoral observers, Canadian Forces military personnel were not authorised to serve as electoral officers.
At the core of UNTAC’s mandate was the conduct of free and fair elections for the establishment of a new government. The success of the general election can be traced to a bold plan initiated by the UN to involve the military component of the various factions in providing security during the six days of balloting, something never before attempted on a UN mission. As a result of the initiative the elections held between 23 and 28 May saw an unprecedented 90% of registered voters – or roughly 4.2 million people – cast ballots.
On 23 September 1993, UNTAC ended its mandate with the successful completion of the general election, the creation of a new constitution, and the formation of a new government.
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