Fourteen Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians have asked Prime Minister Hun Sen and two other top government officials to appear at the National Assembly to explain why negotiations with the UN to form a Khmer Rouge tribunal have apparently failed.
“It is the necessity and responsibility of the Royal Government to clarify before Parliament this shameful case,” a letter signed by the opposition party lawmakers stated.
The UN announced Feb 8 its withdrawal from efforts to try former leaders of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime. UN legal counsel Hans Corell said the UN pulled out because of the government’s insistence that the tribunal law—signed by King Norodom Sihanouk in August—supersede any memorandum of understanding between the UN and the government on the formation and the conduct of the tribunal.
The European Union, meanwhile, urged the UN to rejoin talks with the government, according to a statement issued by the German Embassy.
The lawmakers’ letter was sent Wednesday to acting National Assembly President Heng Samrin. Chan Ven, deputy secretary general of the assembly, said the invitation has not yet been relayed by Heng Samrin to Hun Sen. But, he said, “we never block lawmakers from inviting government officials.”
The lawmakers also asked in the letter that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Minister of Cabinet Sok An come to the assembly to answer questions. Sok An has served as the government’s chief negotiator on the tribunal.
The lawmakers want to know of any possible government plans to conduct trials without the UN’s participation, the letter stated.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy has supported the UN’s decision. Earlier this month, he blasted what he said was the government’s unwillingness to hold credible trials.
Observers have said the UN must be involved in the tribunal to give it credibility. Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun and Adhoc President Thun Saray said trials conducted only by Cambodian judges and lawyers would not carry credibility with either Cambodians or the international community.
“The new generation of Cambodians would protest,” Sok Sam Oeun said.
Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said he would rather not have any trials if the only other option is to hold unfair trials.
“I do not blame the UN for its decision,” he said. “If they had joined the tribunal, they would have destroyed their reputation…. It would be like the 1979 trial.”
The five-day People’s Revolutionary Tribunal was held in Phnom Penh eight months after Vietnamese-supported troops drove the Khmer Rouge from power.
The tribunal tried and convicted top Khmer Rouge leaders Pol Pot and Ieng Sary of genocide in absentia, but the trial is widely held to have been politically tainted, unfair and inadequate.
Also Wednesday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 17 Cambodian NGOs, expressed its support for the UN, saying it should refuse participation or support for any tribunal that does not meet international standards.
“Any political expediency simply to have a trial to save face would turn this trial into a political trial, which would benefit no one,” the CHRAC statement said. “National sovereignty should not be an obstruction to truth and justice…. Our government should make efforts to reach up to the UN and accept its terms and conditions.”
But CHRAC also said it is not asking the UN to re-enter negotiations with the government “which have so clearly failed despite [the UN’s] best efforts.”
The coalition said it feared that other countries where genocide and crimes against humanity have occurred or will occur may not seek justice as a result of the unsuccessful negotiations between the UN and Cambodia.