United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia – UNTAC

Did America Back The Khmer Rouge

The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was a period between 1992 and 1993 when the Cambodian state was run by the United Nations. In This respect it represents a unique Cambodian state in between the State of Cambodia, and the brief period before the Kingdom of Cambodia was proclaimed.

Formation of UNTAC

UNTAC came into existiece in February 1992 by agreement between the UN, the State of Cambdoia and the Coalition Governmejt of Democratic Kampuchea. It marks the only time in history when the United Nations have taken over civilian control of a country to implement democratic elections. As opposed to just overseeing them. It was protected by troops from over 45 UN nations.

It ceased existence in September 1993 after the elections that produced the coalition government. The country was briefly again known as the State of Cambodia until the restoration of the monarchy and the formation of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Aims of UNTAC

The principle aim of UNTAC was to be a mediating force and to implement the Paris Peace Accords of 1991. The civilian and police forces it employed to complete this mission cost around $2.5 billion, mostly on salaries for expatriates.


Failure to disarm

Another principle aim of the government was to disarm militias, principally the Khmer Rouge. In actual fact it was only the militias of the State of Cambodia that were disarmed, which gave a great advantage to the to the Khmer Rouge when they walked away from the peace process.

Trial of War Criminals

Another abject failure of the regime was in bringing the Khmer Rouge back into politics and more importantly its leaders to trail for war crimes, soemthing that would take almost another 20 years to achieve. At the point almost all of the main players were either dead, or on deaths door.

Negative effects of the  UN presence in Cambodia

Aside from failing to disarm the Khmer Rouge and the continuation of the civil war, there were a number of other negative effects that befell the country. It is estimated that the number of sex workers jumped from 6000 to 90,000 during the time of the UN presence. This also led to drastic increase in cases of HIV.

The Kingdom of Cambodia

Though not without its problems the UNTAC mission did result in the Kingdom of Cambdoia being restored and the eventual end of the Khmer Rouge in 1998/99. Whether Cambdoia could have achived a relative peace without UN supervision is open to debate.