Cambodia, UN Sign KR Trial Agreement

There was a palpable sense that history was in the making among the several hundred dignitaries who witnessed the long-awaited signing on Friday of the agreement between Cambodia and UN on the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Several rounds of quiet ap­plause broke out as Cabinet Min­ister Sok An, head of the Cam­bodian task force to establish a tribunal, began the short process of signing the agreement documents with the UN’s Chief Legal Counsel Hans Corell.

A champagne toast between Sok An and Corell sealed what has been a six-year-long mar­athon to agree upon the make-up of a tribunal to find justice for more than one million people who died during the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

With the ceremony of the occasion ending, both top negotiators marked the occasion with some reflections on the negotiations and some warnings about the path ahead.

“Almost a quarter of a century—a whole generation—has passed, during which geopolitical complications stood in the way of a proper international recognition of the crimes committed. Now at last we have emerged from that period,” Sok An said in his speech.

Sok An said work ahead would not be easy as the agreement moves into implementation, but he expected the National As­sembly to ratify the agreement and the tribunal established later this year.

Corell was equally reminiscent about the past and cautious about the future.

“If the signature of the present agreement marks the end of one phase in the efforts to bring the leaders of the Khmer Rouge to justice, it also marks the beginning of another. For these is still much that remains to be done,” Corell said.

Addressing somewhat the criticism of the UN over its recognition of the Khmer Rouge during the 1980s, Corell said the ceremony was also a time to reflect on whether enough had been done to stop the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Did we know? Could we not have prevented what happened? What did we do to stop the atrocities?” Corell asked.

While the moods was upbeat in Phnom Penh, Khmer Rouge scholar Stephen Heder told the BBC World Service on Friday morning that he considered the agreement flawed.

The agreement gave too much control to the Cambodia government, members of which were once Khmer Rouge cadre, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Heder said.

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