Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday said Cambodia’s courts have no jurisdiction to order the arrests of former Khmer Rouge leaders, saying only a UN-sponsored tribunal will have the power to bring them to justice.
No arrests will be made until the tribunal is set up, he said, adding that ratification of the tribunal will be the first order of business for a newly formed National Assembly .
“The charges [against former Khmer Rouge leaders] can only be made by a coalition of Cambodian and UN judges,” Hun Sen told reporters at the Council of Ministers.
Late last month, three provincial prosecutors said they had ignored an Appeals Court order to arrest Khieu Samphan, former head of state of Democratic Kampuchea, and Nuon Chea, known as Brother No 2 to Pol Pot.
Appeals Court General Prosecutor Hangrot Raken ordered the two men’s arrests in April, according to a copy of the prosecutor’s order obtained last month.
But provincial prosecutors in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang and Siem Reap refused to carry out the order. Attempts to reach Hangrot Raken by phone Sunday were unsuccessful.
On Saturday, Hun Sen said he was not worried that Khieu Samphan or Nuon Chea would try to flee the country to avoid a tribunal.
“They don’t know where to go. They will face the tribunal,” Hun Sen said.
Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea live in Pailin, and ex-Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary spends most of his time in Phnom Penh.
Referring to an agreement signed a year ago by Cabinet Minister Sok An and UN Chief Legal Counsel Hans Correll to establish a tribunal to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders, Hun Sen told reporters, “when the National Assembly is working, the first agenda will be to ratify that agreement.”
The UN and a Cambodian task force are currently working out the budget and logistics of the long-awaited tribunal. Both sides have said they hope to begin the tribunal before the end of the year, but it will first require the approval of parliament and King Norodom Sihanouk.
The Assembly has not had the chance to consider the UN agreement, having been inactive since last year’s elections and subsequent political deadlock.
The premier, speaking after meeting with US Ambassador Charles Ray, said the US envoy was also pushing for the Assembly to consider the tribunal agreement when the Assembly opens.
He added that Ray had told him the US was preparing to offer $30 million in assistance to Cambodia, once a new government is formed.
Several other critical pieces of legislation—including proposed laws necessary for Cambodia’s ascension into the World Trade Organization—are also awaiting ratification.