EU Meets Gov’t on KR Trial

The creation of a UN-aided tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders appears to have stalled, but no alternative is being discussed, European diplomats said Thursday after meeting with Sok An, Cambodia’s chief tribunal negotiator.

“We heard nothing we haven’t heard before,” said Stefano Janfolla, the Italian ambassador based in Bangkok. “The issue is at a halt. No one is taking an initiative, either this side or the [UN].”

No possibilities outside the declared position of the European Union—that Cambodia and the UN should continue to negotiate—were raised, diplomats said.

“The EU [diplomats] said the problem is not so big that it cannot be solved, but the issue is how the two sides can come together to continue negotiations,” Sok An said.

Sok An said he tried to impress on the diplomats the government’s sincerity in wanting the tribunal to proceed. “The government has wanted a trial since 1997,” he said. “If we had no political will, we would not need to spend our money and waste our time working on this issue.”

Since the UN ended negotiations in February, claiming Cambodia could not guarantee the trial would meet international standards, the UN has refused to budge despite protests from member countries.

India has volunteered to assist in a tribunal without the UN. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said last week India would lend a judge for such a trial. Prime Minister Hun Sen has given an  “ultimatum” that Cambodia would seek other options if the UN did not resume negotiations by late June.

Asked what the alternative might be if the two sides cannot agree, Bangkok-based Netherlands ambassador Gerard Kramer said: “That is not being specified. We are taking this one step at a time.”

Finnish ambassador Heikki Tuunanen, also based in Bangkok, said India’s offer was not mentioned, nor were any similar proposals made. “We think [Cambodia] should have UN backing, not try some other ad hoc scheme,” he said.

The talks with Sok An were included in a full day of meetings for the ambassadors of12 EU countries and two EU representatives.

The group of diplomats also met among themselves and with Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh.

 

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