Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday uttered some of the harshest words to date shunning UN involvement in a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, saying he no longer is concerned whether the world endorses the proceedings.
Responding to ongoing criticism that a local trial of those responsible for more than 1 million deaths during the reign of Democratic Kampuchea would be nothing more than a show trial, Hun Sen said simply, “I did not ask anyone to accept the decision of this court.”
“It does not matter that the international community does not accept the court decision….Never mind, because [our] legal system is independent. No need to force anyone to accept it,” he said to reporters after a graduation ceremony at the Faculty of Pedagogy.
His emphatic statements come on the heels of his meeting in New York earlier this month with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who reiterated the world body’s stance the only credible trial of Pol Pot’s former comrades is an international-style trial with a majority of UN-appointed judges.
Hun Sen’s statements also come amid regional defiance to the UN, as officials in Indonesia also attempt to defer UN investigations of atrocities committed in breakaway East Timor.
Hun Sen said of the UN: “They talk about countries retaining their sovereignty. But they want to set up an international court in Cambodia that is dominated by the international community. Is this the respect of sovereignty or the invasion of sovereignty?”
Hun Sen said a UN that for too long legitimized Khmer Rouge leaders by allowing them a seat in the 1980s and a role in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement has no business trying them now. Only Cambodia can provide the “enormous punishment” the perpetrators deserve, he said.
In March of this year, Hun Sen successfully rejected an international tribunal when China threatened to veto such a plan in the UN Security Council. The current UN proposal for a tribunal inside Cambodia carries much less weight, and doesn’t require the Security Council’s approval.
US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann this week reminded the government the US backs the UN plan, but Hun Sen dismissed threats from major powers.
He spoke specifically of threats to cut off financial support of a trial and said Cambodia “has an ability to run its own trial without financial support from anyone.”
“If anyone wishes to come, they should come with their own finances,” he said, possibly alluding to private legal advisers from the US and France who government officials said have signed on to help draft a new genocide law.
The main criticism from abroad has been whether a local court would indict all alleged offenders, because Hun Sen and a number of officials once were aligned with the Khmer Rouge.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy repeatedly has argued a local trial would mean key players from Democratic Kampuchea like former party chief Nuon Chea, foreign minister Ieng Sary and prime minister Khieu Samphan would be spared prosecution.
Yet Hun Sen on Wednesday said the death of Pol Pot and recent imprisonment of guerrilla and former Pol Pot bodyguard Ta Mok are not enough.
“The remaining issue is to try them all in order to close the case,” Hun Sen said.
One survivor of the regime, however, said this week that any trial without the UN would be no trial at all.
“The soul of my sister…as well as millions of Cambodian people who have survived the Khmer Rouge regime have been waiting for over 20 years now for a fair trial,” wrote Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, in a statement this week.
Youk Chhang, whose center is collecting evidence against former Khmer Rouge leaders, said the government’s failure to present a fair trial would be a “betrayal” of those who await justice.