Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, arrived in Cambodia Thursday but remained mum on possible talks with the Cambodian government concerning the anticipated trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.
An embassy official confirmed the trial will be discussed, saying that the Australian government “is pushing and supporting the negotiations produced between the United Nations and Cambodia.”
But it remains unclear what role Downer will play as Cambodian and UN officials work to finalize a trial plan before it goes to the National Assembly for debate. Australia is considered one of Cambodia’s key donors.
Downer, who is scheduled to meet today with Prime Minister Hun Sen, would not comment on the Khmer Rouge trial Thursday after arriving in Cambodia.
His visit marks the second time in recent weeks that a senior Western government official has conferred with Cambodian leaders on the trial. In late April, US Senator John Kerry brokered a tentative trial deal between Hun Sen and the UN, potentially breaking a months-long deadlock over how former Khmer Rouge should be prosecuted.
A US Embassy official would not say if Downer was briefed by the US on the trial plan prior to his visit here.
Australian Embassy officials said Downer also will sign agreements on agricultural projects and discuss trade opportunities during his visit. According to a statement from the Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry, he will also discuss criminal justice assistance projects in Cambodia.
Downer will be granted an audience with King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath during his three-day visit. He is expected to meet with Senate President Chea Sim and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong before leaving for Siem Reap Saturday.
There he is scheduled to visit a Cambodian Mine Action Center headquarters and tour a demining operation. Australia has been one of the biggest contributors to Cambodia’s demining efforts and continues to take the lead in funding the financially ailing agency. Twice in the last six months, Australia has been the first to provide money to keep CMAC open following a massive pull-out by donors last year after proof of rampant financial mismanagement inside the agency emerged.