Hun Sen Says He Won’t Block Trial
Ieng Sary on Tuesday rebuked a former Khmer Rouge comrade for his curt apology for the suffering Cambodians endured under the regime. The group’s former foreign minister said history alone should judge Democratic Kampuchea.
In a rare interview in Pailin, Ieng Sary told a local French-language newspaper that Nuon Chea’s recent show of remorse was inadequate given his No 2 position in the communist party.
Ieng Sary’s comments came in an interview with Cambodge Soir in which he pleaded his innocence and reiterated a tribunal of Khmer Rouge leaders could throw the nation back into civil war. “It is history who will be the judge of our actions,” he said of crimes against humanity.
However, Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated in an interview reprinted Wednesday he will not “create obstacles” to a tribunal. It is the latest in the prime minister’s often-confusing comments on the Khmer Rouge trial.
Former Khmer Rouge leaders see a tribunal for architects of their regime as contrary to their defection deals and warned it may spark a new civil war.
Ieng Sary himself was adamant that he is not “morally responsible” for the Khmer Rouge’s alleged crimes against humanity. “I didn’t know anything,” he said.
But Nuon Chea, as “Brother No 2” during the brutal Democratic Kampuchea regime had the same insight into the regime’s machinery as party chief Pol Pot and government defense minister Son Sen, Ieng Sary said.
“[Nuon Chea] can’t say that he didn’t know,” Ieng Sary told Cambodge Soir, indicating that Nuon Chea’s brief show of remorse fell far short of what he should have apologized for.
More than 1 million people are believed to have died under the group’s nearly four-year regime.
In response to questions during a Dec 29 press conference on whether he was sorry for the regime’s brutality, Nuon Chea replied quizzically and curtly. “I have great regret, not only for the people, but also for all the animals who suffered during the war.”
Nuon Chea and former Khmer Rouge intellectual Khieu Samphan defected to the government on Dec 25 and were treated to a luxury tour of the country.
But Hun Sen, in a wide-ranging interview late last month just published locally, admonished red-carpet treatment of the Khmer Rouge by the international community during the Paris Peace Accords and called “legal” a 1979 court trial of Ieng Sary and Pol Pot by Phnom Penh’s then-Hanoi-backed regime.
He said that while a UN tribunal of Khmer Rouge leaders can go ahead, the scope of any court proceedings should include “those who supported and helped the Khmer Rouge.”
“My position is that if [the UN] decide to have a trial, they can do so,” Hun Sen told the Australian weekly Green Left. “I did not give the assurance that anyone could be exempt from a trial.”
In the interview, reprinted Wednesday in the Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia), Hun Sen denied he wants to “create obstacles” to a trial by demanding it try nations that supported the Khmer Rouge over the past 30 years.
He also lauded a 1979 trial that condemned Pol Pot and Ieng Sary to death. The trial, Hun Sen noted, involved foreign lawyers.
“You cannot do better,” said Hun Sen told Green Left.
The trial, set up by the Hanoi-backed government, featured a foreign defense lawyer who condemned his clients. In addition, it tried both men in absentia without a lawyer they picked to represent them.
Such ingredients, legal experts say, do not make a fair trial.
Ieng Sary received a royal amnesty from the death sentence when he defected in 1996. Pol Pot died at a Khmer Rouge jundgle hideout last April.