"België erkent geen regeringen, enkel staten" : Het geval Cambodja 1979-1991

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Since 1965 Belgian has stopped recognizing governments confining itself to the recognition of states only and maintaining diplomatie relations with the recognized states through wathever government able of exercising effective controle of those states' territory. Nota single exception to this doctrine was made untill 1979.
In 1979 however Belgium refused to recognize the government installed in Phnom Penh following the Vietnamese intervention. One year later it also stopped recognizing the Khmer Rouge. In the UN however Belgium went on to accept the Khmer Rouge delegation as the representatives of Cambodia, a state thus being represented by a delegation accredited by an entity that Belgium did not consider to be a government. This contradiction was maintained untill present since neither the coalition between the Khmer Rouge, Sihanouk and Son Sann (created in 1982) nor the Supreme National Council (created in 1990) were regarded by Belgium as governments.
The article reconstructs the Belgium position out of the many statements and arguments the government bas put forward in the UN and the Belgian Parliament.  The Belgian position is than examined in the light of international law, its own recognition doctrine and the international and domestic political context.
This led to the conclusion that the legal grounds for the Belgian policy were rather weak and that its position almost completly differred from its traditional doctrine. In the Cambodian case however political considerations appeared to have prevailed Belgium chose to join the US, China and Asean and manoeuvred as to follow them in their condemnation of the Vietnamese intervention. Acting even as one of the most faithfull followers of the Asean policy towards Cambodia, Belgium enjoyed the improvement of its own relations with Asean, also in the commercial field.
The continuous domestic opposition in and out of the Parliament was not able to change this policy. Even the present Minister of Foreign Alf airs who declared to be inclined to adjust the Belgian position had to hold back in order not to affect the esthablised relations.

How to Cite:

Maes, M., (1991) “"België erkent geen regeringen, enkel staten" : Het geval Cambodja 1979-1991”, Res Publica 33(2), 255-302. doi:

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Published on
29 Jun 1991
Peer Reviewed