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Keynote Speech by Mr.SAKAGUCHI NAOTO

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Please click the link below for the video.

Summary of Keynote Speech

Today, April 8, marks the 30th anniversary of the shooting death of Atsuhito Nakata, who worked for UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) to implement free and fair elections in Cambodia.

Kyoto University of Arts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United Nations Volunteer Program conducted the "Nakata Atsuhito 30th Anniversary Peace Forum," at which I was the keynote speaker.

I spoke for about 40 minutes in the presence of experts in peacebuilding and peace diplomacy working for the UN and various governments, including Mr. Yasushi Akashi, who served as UNTAC's Special Representative. I felt everyone's uninterrupted and enthusiastic gazes on me, and my presentation of issues served as a starting point for various discussions, including how we should support democratization and how Japan should contribute to peace. I am very grateful for this opportunity.

I spoke on the following themes.

1.Introduction of Mr. Nakata's personality through his picture book "Nakata Atsuhito Story: My Dream is to Make the World Peaceful," which summarizes his footsteps. This picture book was edited with quotes from his words that I heard directly from him when we were roommates during the two months of Khmer language training. About 3,500 copies have already been distributed in Cambodia and Japan.

2.As a member of the House of Representatives, I worked to reform Cambodia's electoral system as an activity to continue his legacy of risking his life for the implementation of free and fair elections. I proposed to the National Assembly that the voter registration process could be subject to fraud, including double registration, and that computerization of the process could prevent fraud. As a result, the institutional basis for free and fair elections was established, with the addition of biometric functions. However, in 2017, Cambodia's first opposition party, the National Rescue Party, was disbanded for attempting to overthrow the state. The people who wanted change no longer had a party to vote for, and the ruling Cambodia People’s Party won all 125 seats in the 2018 election. Cambodia's democracy is in crisis.

3.The current situation of Nakata Atsuhito village and "Atsu School" which was established in the place where he ended his life. Currently, 300 elementary school students and 130 junior high school students are studying there. Since many children are unable to attend school due to poverty, the NGO Interband is supporting the implementation of supplementary classes. 

4.I raised the issue of how Japan should contribute to peace. In particular, I asked how the lessons learned from Cambodia's electoral reform could be applied and implemented in third countries, such as Myanmar, where similar electoral process irregularities have been an obstacle to democratization.

China's influence has led me to believe that more and more countries are thinking that they can be prosperous without democratization. How to improve the quality of democracy and evolve it into a system that makes each individual happy is a major challenge for the future. Let us think about this together during these two days!

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