The Cambodian People’s Party yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of its founding, with party head and Senate President Chea Sim reiterating that the government supports prosecuting only the utmost senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
Thousands of CPP supporters, sporting party T-shirts and hats, attended the ceremony at party headquarters on Phnom Penh’s Norodom Boulevard.
On the second day of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s hearing of a milestone case against four senior regime leaders, Mr Chea Sim invoked Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statement to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in October that no additional cases would be “allowed” by the government.
The court’s cases 003 and 004, in which five lower-ranking Khmer Rouge military and civilian leaders are accused of crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, are adamantly opposed by the government and appear headed for dismissal.
The CPP “supports the process of the [Khmer Rouge tribunal] to try the crimes committed by the most senior leaders of the regime of Democratic Kampuchea aimed at seeking justice for the people on the basis of absolutely guaranteeing peace, stability and national reconciliation in Cambodia along the line of what was stated by” the prime minister to Mr Ban, Mr Chea Sim said yesterday.
The court is mandated to try both senior leaders and “those most responsible” for crimes committed under the regime.
Both Mr Hun Sen, who under the regime reportedly served as a deputy regimental commander in the East Zone’s Sector 21, and Mr Chea Sim, who served as chief of Ponhea Krek district in the Eastern Zone’s Sector 20 in what is today Kompong Cham province, were among Khmer Rouge cadre who defected to Vietnam as opponents of Pol Pot.
As part of an uprising officially launched on Dec 2, 1978, they returned as Vietnamese forces invaded and drove Democratic Kampuchea from power and they later joined the party and state that arose in its place. After its overthrow, the Communist Party of Kampuchea was disbanded in 1981.
That year the defectors who overthrew the CPK formed the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea, which traces its roots to the 1951 founding of the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (the same body that would in 1960 become the Worker’s Party of Kampuchea and in 1966 became the CPK, more widely known as the Khmer Rouge).
The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s international investigating judge in 2009 summoned six senior party members to testify as witnesses, including Mr Chea Sim, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and Finance Minister Keat Chhon and CPP Senator Sim Ka. All six refused to obey the summonses and their evidence has never been heard.
Australia, which this month pledged more than $2 million to the tribunal, was one of sixteen foreign countries whose embassies sent flowers to ruling party leaders during the ceremony. Japan, another major donor to the court, also gave a bouquet, along with other embassies including Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, Cuba, Burma and Singapore.
An Australian Embassy spokesman said giving bouquets was official procedure. “The Australian government does not interfere in the internal politics of other countries. The flowers are simply part of local protocol,” the spokesman said by e-mail.
In a statement on its latest donation to tribunal, the Australian government stressed the importance of the court’s working “with complete judicial independence, free from outside influence.”
Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, said that the bouquets given yesterday were simply traditional. “It is nothing else but to congratulate the Cambodian People’s Party’s achievement for 60 years,” he said. Mr Nhel added that prosecution was “only for the top Khmer Rouge leaders, such as Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, who are the top leaders, to avoid impacting national stability and security.”
During his speech, Mr Chea Sim also “wholeheartedly” hailed the success of the Cambodian delegation to the World Heritage Committee meeting, where Thailand walked out after failing to delay consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for Preah Vihear temple.
“The Cambodian People’s Party strongly condemns the wars of aggression that have been conducted again and again by the Thai ruling circle,” Mr Chea Sim said, applauding armed forces on the border who are “getting ready all the time.”