High-level talks about the Khmer Rouge tribunal between Cabinet Minister Sok An and UN officials will not be held in Phnom Penh this week because of scheduling conflicts, a senior UN official said Tuesday.
UN and Cambodian officials said Tuesday that recently appointed UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien this month asked Sok An to meet in Phnom Penh on Thursday and Friday with UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksøe-Jensen.
However Taksøe-Jensen said by telephone from New York on Tuesday night that this had proven not to be possible as Cambodian officials could not confirm that Sok An would be available.
“It takes some time to travel between New York and Cambodia and I didn’t want to travel without confirmation,” said Taksøe-Jensen. “My interlocutor’s schedule seems to be full and my schedule is full.”
“We needed to make sure before we entered the flight,” he said, adding that both sides were quickly working to find a new, mutually convenient date.
Despite reports early this month that the meeting had been requested, the contents of any agenda have been closely guarded. Taksøe-Jensen said both parties intended to discuss cooperation in managing the court but declined to elaborate.
Sok An arrived from China at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday but left without taking questions from reporters. It was unclear Tuesday whether the Cambodian government had acknowledged the UN’s request for a meeting.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sok An’s secretary had not recorded any such meeting.
“He told me he doesn’t have any meeting like that on his schedule,” Phay Siphan said earlier Tuesday.
Such a meeting would have been the first opportunity for face-to-face discussions of kickback allegations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal since the government in September reacted with dismay to the results of a UN review, which it said unfairly identified Cambodian officials.
UN officials met in New York in September to discuss the matter, however donor representatives in New York and Phnom Penh said Tuesday any UN response has not yet been shared with them.
“I trust in the ingenuity of the United Nations representative to come up with a good solution,” a donor country representative in Phnom Penh said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.
(Additional reporting by Rann Reuy)