Railing against the UN for its past relationship with the Khmer Rouge, Prime Minister Hun Sen denounced a recent UN draft proposal and said it should neither appoint a prosecutor nor arrange an international majority of judges in any war crimes trial.
“The UN allowed the Khmer Rouge to go on killing for 20 years and allowed the Khmer Rouge to sit in the seat of the United Nations,” Hun Sen said Wednesday in an interview broadcast on state-run TVK.
“You can ask yourself, over the last 20 years, who really wants a trial and who really doesn’t want a trial?” he asked fiercely. “I’ve been spending half of my life to dismantle this political and military organization of the Khmer Rouge…so they should not come and disturb us like this.”
The premier’s comments, made in an interview at his residence Tuesday, came one day after key details of a draft UN proposal outlining conditions for international participation in a mixed tribunal to be held in Cambodia were published.
Hun Sen said that if the UN plan is adopted, it would bring about an “unpredictable tragedy,” implying former Khmer Rouge factions might fight to prevent the arrests of their leaders.
“We cannot accept this kind of proposal, we will not discuss such a proposal and we will be indifferent to such a proposal,” he said.
Hun Sen criticized the UN for allowing Khmer Rouge leaders to participate in the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991. He also pointed out that the UN recognized the Khmer Rouge as the lawful rulers of long after the notorious regime had been ousted by Vietnamese-led forces in 1979.
In the broadcast, Hun Sen clung to the idea that Cambodia’s three-tiered judicial system—not what he called an “internationalized” system—should try those responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million during the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.
He said a provision in the UN plan the government arrest suspects before they are charged by local courts not only would challenge Cambodia’s “sovereignty,” but could incite other former Khmer Rouge leaders to flee.
But a UN memo presenting an earlier draft of the UN plan, penned by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Robert Zacklin, said the arrest directive is not negotiable.
Vowing to raise his concerns when he addresses the UN general assembly next month, Hun Sen appeared a bit surprised at the new UN plan. He noted he has not received an official copy of the draft and that he read about it in the press.
His comments come as UN experts prepare to arrive next week to push the plan. According to the draft, the Zacklin-led team will aim for a five- or seven-member tribunal, with Cambodian jurists in the minority.
UN officials here tried to cajole Hun Sen’s CPP on Tuesday and assure them the proposal is negotiable. Hun Sen was unmoved.
“They let the Khmer Rouge kill the people. They run away from the Cambodian people,” he said. “We have the capacity to arrest the Khmer Rouge. We have the capacity to bring these Khmer Rouge leaders to trial.”
The Khmer Rouge’s Democratic Kampuchea government was recognized by the UN from 1975-89.
The international community provided assistance to an anti-Hanoi front based along the Thai border that included the Khmer Rouge in 1980s.
One senior Asian diplomat said Hun Sen was staking out a position, but compromise is possible.
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