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United Nations Transitional Authority on Cambodia (UNTAC)
 

UNTAC was established to ensure implementation of the Agreements on the Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, signed in Paris on 23 October 1991. The mandate included aspects relating to human rights, the organization and conduct of elections, military arrangements, civil administration, maintenance of law and order, repatriation and resettlement of refugees and displaced persons and rehabilitation of Cambodian infrastructure.

 

 

 
Background

For over two decades Cambodia presented a dismal picture of violence, destruction and starvation, aggravated by foreign occupation. After prolonged negotiations an agreement, on a comprehensive political settlement of the complicated conflict was finally reached in October 1992. In pursuance of this agreement, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was established with a mandate to promote an environment of peace and respect for human rights in which free and fair elections could be held.

When the United Nations requested the member countries to contribute troops to UNTAC, Pakistan , in keeping with its previous record, responded positively and 2nd Battalion of the Azad Kashmir Regiment was dispatched. This contingent formed part of a force of 15900 personnel from 32 countries. They were tasked to ensure the withdrawal of all foreign forces, supervision of cease-fire, disarmament and demobilization of Cambodia 's warring factions.  

The Pakistani troops carried out peacekeeping operations in the most difficult and remote regions during the period May 92 - August 93. They overcame enormous logistic and operational problems and, displaying their characteristic courage and determination, defended themselves and those for whom they were responsible. Undaunted by the odds, they handled crisis after crisis and persuaded the warring factions to lay down their arms.

Peacekeeping in difficult conditions Pakistani troops launch a mine
clearing operation in Cambodia

The electoral component of the UNTAC was assigned the responsibility to hold free and fair elections scheduled from 23 May to 28 May 93 . The registration process commenced on 5th October 1992 in Cambodia . The process was disrupted on many occasions due to hostile activities of the warring factions. In Preah Vihear province many people walked more than 25 kilometers just to get themselves registered so that they could participate in the elections. The Pakistani Battalion provided armed escorts and created the security environment essential for the conduct of elections. They distributed public information material and screened especially-prepared video films to educate the masses in understanding their vital role during elections.

These efforts bore fruit and almost 90 per cent of the people got themselves registered. This restored the confidence of the locals in UNTAC and also allowed the electoral staff to continue their work.

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An ammunition cache recovered by
Pakistani soldiers

Cambodian insurgents surrendering arms

Ensuring peaceful ballot was the main task assigned to UN troops.
Glimpses of the success of the mission


Blue beret Pakistanis help the locals repair a village road

As the election dates drew near, the cases of intimidation and violence started increasing. But due to effective security arrangements and coordinated efforts by the Pakistanis, the elections in Preah Vihear province progressed without interruption. There was a heavy turnout of voters and long queues were seen outside all the 44 polling stations in the province.

The massive turnout of people was a reflection of the confidence they had in UNTAC and a tribute to the meticulous planning and hard work put in by the Pakistanis. Acting as catalysts of peace, they earned the admiration of other UNTAC units and the goodwill of the Cambodian people. In the words of the Force Commander UNTAC, Lieutenant General J.M. Sanderson, “the Pakistani contingent showed professionalism, patience, determination and compassion, which indeed are the hallmark of an effective peace-keeping force. Elaborate arrangements for peace-keeping and holding of elections also contributed to the long-term welfare of Cambodia . It was felt that some short-term measures should also be adopted to cater for the immediate requirements of the people. This gave rise to what came to be known as the “Hearts and Minds” programme.

The idea was to initiate small-scale civic pro3ects to help the common man. At the same time they would allow a greater interaction with the civilians and build up their confidence in UNTAC. The Pakistani contingent readily took up the challenge. The beginning was made with organizing social events like Fun Fairs and Peace walks. As a large number of people wanted to learn English, the Pakistanis started regular English language classes in the local school. With the success of English classes the concept was expanded to include vocational training. Cadres were held for driving, basic masonry, carpentership and tractor repair. This not only provided an opportunity to the people to learn but also improve their financial condition. The Pakistani contingent also undertook a programme of digging wells to provide clean drinking water and set up medical camps to treat local patients.

Such measures created tremendous goodwill towards the peace-keepers who, with the passage of time, became symbols of friendship and hope for the war- weary Cambodians before they finally returned after accomplishing their mission.

Duration
  • March 1992 - 15 November 1993
Participation
  • 17 Military Observers
  • Mine clearance/supervisory Team -   37 Personnel
  • 1006 Strong Infantry Contingent
  • Staff Members -                               63 x Personnel
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