Government officials said the fate of former Khmer Rouge leaders is up to the court and beyond their control, at the same time reiterating their position that any tribunal should be held on Cambodian terms.
Even threats of renewed fighting will not change events, Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said Sunday.
“The government—even Hun Sen—has no power,’’ he said. “If someone is a criminal and there is enough evidence, [the court] can arrest anyone.” The fate of leaders such as Ieng Sary will be decided by “the rule of law.’’
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said: “It’s up to the judge not to the politicians. If the judge feels that these people should stand trial, then they should stand trial.’’
Analysts and diplomats dismissed any new revolt by the under-manned, under-armed former Khmer Rouge army as unlikely—even if the government arrests former leaders who have significant local followings. But some suggested the government and the UN should move quickly to offer a clearer definition of who will be held culpable, to prevent tribunal targets from exploiting the anxieties of the former Khmer Rouge rank and file.
“Part of the reaction if they go after people like Ieng Sary will depend on how many other people they go after,’’ one diplomat said Sunday. “Up to now, no one has really said when we go after Khmer Rouge people this is who we mean….If it’s just [Ieng Sary], are people really going to go back to the jungle? Some are beginning to feel the benefits of peace.’’
Cambodia is gearing up for what appears increasingly likely to be contentious talks over a possible “mixed’’ tribunal. Sok An, an adviser to Hun Sen and the minister of the Council of Ministers, told Reuters, “In principle it will be a Cambodian court in which we accept the participation of foreign judges and legal experts.’’