The Khmer Rouge tribunal should not seek the prosecution of any leaders of the former regime beyond the five already in custody, Prime Minister Hun Sen told French President Nicholas Sarkozy during a visit to France last week, according to a senior government official.
Prak Sokhorn, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, told reporters at a news conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on Sunday that the prime minister told Mr Sarkozy that the tribunal is going well, but suggested that no further prosecutions be pursued.
“Hun Sen recommends that the Khmer Rouge tribunal should take care not to threaten the peace in Cambodia, and that means only prosecuting these five people,” Mr Sokhorn said.
Five leaders of the Pol Pot regime currently face prosecution at the tribunal: former S-21 prison head Kaing Guek Eav, Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary and former minister of social action Ieng Thirith. The premier’s apparent remarks to Mr Sarkozy echo a speech he made in late March, during which the premier called for no further prosecutions in order to avoid “another war.”
The tribunal’s co-prosecutors are locked in an ongoing dispute regarding the prosecution of further suspects. International Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit has proposed investigations into a further six individuals, one of whom has since died, while Cambodian Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang has opposed the suggestion, sparking allegations of political interference.
Mr Petit could not be reached for comment Sunday. A woman answering Ms Leang’s telephone Sunday said that the prosecutor would not speak with reporters.
Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn said Sunday that it was not his place to speculate on how many suspects will be prosecuted by the tribunal, and that he would not comment about what sway the prime minister holds over the court.
However, he added, “It is an international court; it is not easily affected by people in power.”
Tribunal Chief of Public Affairs Reach Sambath also declined to comment Sunday, saying, “It is not my habit to comment on the prime minister’s statements.”