pailin municipality – Co-investigating judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia will hold meetings today and Wednesday with local officials and members of the public in a bid to ease their work in this former Khmer Rouge stronghold.
With five senior Khmer Rouge leaders now behind bars, recent visits to Pailin by tribunal investigators have stoked rumors and fears that further arrests will take place among lower level cadres, officials said.
Pailin’s Acting Municipal Governor Lav Bun Pa said that 50 to 100 police and military police, as well as RCAF, district and commune officials are scheduled to meet this morning with ECCC co-Investigating Judges Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng.
A public forum will be held Wednesday with several hundred participants at Koang Kang pagoda, he added.
ECCC investigators recently visited three to four former cadres in Pailin town, including Pol Pot’s nephew Seng Ly The, who refused to cooperate with the officials, Lav Bun Pa said.
“From information and from the situation, I concluded that the forum is to be held to prevent possible unrest because of rumors and reports that the Khmer Rouge tribunal will not try only five leaders,” he added.
Seng Ly The could not be contacted for comment Monday.
Lemonde said Monday that he had traveled to Pailin in response to concerns that potential witnesses had been uncooperative because they were misinformed about their potential roles.
“The investigators meeting some potential witnesses got the impression that there was a certain reluctance,” he said. “There was no particularly dramatic event. It was a general impression,” Lemonde said. “We feel it is part of our job to explain our job.”
The government has long maintained that prosecuting mid-level cadres could fracture the harmony achieved by admitting former regime members back into the fold following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1990s.
According to the law establishing the court, the ECCC is mandated to try “senior leaders” and those deemed “most responsible” for crimes committed by the regime.
Lemonde also said Monday that the intent of the 2003 agreement with the UN to establish the tribunal did not include the prosecution of those only carrying out orders.
“The spirit of the agreement was to create a tribunal that seeks to try the high officials, not the executors [of orders],” he said.
Interior Ministry Secretary of State Em Sam An said that at the request of the tribunal he had instructed Pailin municipal officials to organize this week’s meetings to calm local residents.
“I told the governor to prepare a place,” Em Sam An said. “We wanted to disseminate information that not more than five will be tried,” he said, adding that the meeting could also help prevent any potential unrest.
Tribunal officials have in recent weeks stated that the ECCC does not have a maximum number of suspects, and co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said Monday that his office is continuing investigations to identify any further suspects or relevant facts.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that without a clear definition of what “most responsible” means, it is difficult to say whether anyone in Pailin need fear arrest by the tribunal.
“In theory, even if you kill one person, you’re most responsible,” he said. But he added: “The senior leaders should be the focus right now. It’s important to do this right.”