Due to the fracturing of the Khmer Rouge leadership both before and after the Vietnamese occupation, when Pol Pot retreated back into the Cambodia’s dense jungles, there were few supporters who followed him. This remaining loyal Khmer Rouge would instigate a renewed guerilla war, but in terms of domestic political relevance within Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge became a shell of what they had been. This was a completely different story, however, on the international stage. In the eyes of the United States and much of the Western world, the only thing worse than a Cambodian communist government was a Cambodian communist government dominated by the Vietnamese. Hence, when this new Vietnamese sponsored government of “The People’s Republic of Kampuchea” (PRK) looked to the international community to recognize their government, they were met with disdain. This was epitomized by how Cambodia’s seat at the UN would, throughout the PRK's reign, remain represented by the Khmer Rouge. It would be same story with many country’s own diplomatic ministries, with ambassadors and embassies of Pol Pot’s “Democratic Kampuchea” being recognized, in lieu of Hun Sen’s People’s Republic, as legitimate. This gave the Khmer Rouge political weight, and when an alternative government coalition formed to stand in opposition to the People’s Republic and the Vietnamese, the Khmer Rouge became an instrumental part of it, despite both their own irrelevance on the ground and their egregious crimes against humanity.
The coalition movement, which stood in opposition to the “People’s Republic”, had three main players. The Khmer Rouge, still led by Pol Pot, the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KPNLF), led by a banker and ex Prime Minister under Sihanouk, and FUNCINPEC, a new political party led by Sihanouk himself. Each had its own armed wing fighting the PRK, but their leadership was able to form a loose coalition which collectively drew support from the international community and demanded democratic elections. It would take more than a decade, but finally in 1992, the government of Cambodia under Hun Sen agreed. Over the ensuing year, the United Nations would spend more than $2 billion and take the unprecedented action of forming the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Whereas the UN had only before ever acted to supervise or monitor elections, UNTAC would effectively act as a government itself in order to ensure the transparency of the upcoming Cambodian election. When the election actually took place in May of 1993, 90% of eligible voters would go the polls to vote in what was probably Cambodia’s first (and maybe last) fair election.
When all the dust finally settled, Prince Ranariddh, Sihanouk’s son, of the FUNCINPEC party had won the election. However, with just under 46% of the vote, he hadn’t won a majority. Hun Sen, and his brand new Cambodian People’s Party (replacing the KPRP) was livid at the prospect of losing power, and threatened to split the country if Ranariddh assumed leadership. Sihanouk, returning to his country again from exile, wanted anything but another civil war and instead proposed to form a coalition government where Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen would share power. In this new constitutional monarchy, where Sihanouk would be able to sit as the symbolic King, there would co ministers for everything in the government. Ranariddh and Hun Sen would be co-prime ministers, and across every ministry from interior to health, there would be two, often politically divergent, ministers.
This power sharing agreement between Hun Sen and his CPP and Ranariddh and his FUNCINPEC was fragile to say the least. Hun Sen was highly paranoid of Ranariddh, fearing that he was consistently plotting to throw him and his CPP out of government. When Ranariddh ordered arms for his personal bodyguard or took military action against the ever-rebellious Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen feared that it was all a rouse that was ultimately intended to consolidate power around Ranariddh personally. The story was the same throughout the government, with the still largely communist CPP ministers and the decidedly non-communist FUNCINPEC ministers often developing personal rivalries and growing ever more paranoid of each other. This tension would reach its head in 1997 when Hun Sen decided it was time to take action. The military under this new government was for all intents and purposes the same that had existed under the PRK, and hence the generals and officers had remained loyal to Hun Sen before this new, UN sponsored government. Hun Sen knew this and exploited it, driving Ranariddh and his FUNCINPEC from all aspects of government, killing some 40 FUNCINPEC officials and driving others, including Ranariddh himself, into exile. Some FUNCINPEC officials would return a year later to participate in the 1998 elections, but with Hun Sen in power, the CPP was able to use as much political violence, media censorship and intimidation as they needed to in order to win, and win they did. The story would be largely the same in all ensuing elections, with Hun Sen and his CPP doing whatever they must to keep themselves in power.