Cambodia’s top political leaders had sharply different reactions Monday to the UN decision to bail out of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Reconsider, the door is still open, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.
We have no right to protest, we should leave it to the government, said Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, though he personally doesn’t believe there can be justice without UN involvement.
The government won’t try Khmer Rouge leaders according to international standards, so vote for the Sam Rainsy Party in 2003, and we’ll move the trial to The Hague, Netherlands, Sam Rainsy said.
The prime minister, speaking Monday at the Council of Ministers, was unequivocal. “Cambodia’s door is always open” to a resumption of talks, he said.
He warned that the UN runs the risk of repeating its mistakes of the 1980s, when it recognized the Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government of Cambodia “while they were continuing to kill Cambodians.”
“I don’t want to see the UN fall into the wrong way again and again, which would be shameful to the countries who belong to the UN,” Hun Sen said.
The prime minister noted that a number of UN member nations are objecting to Friday’s decision, and he said he can wait a few months for the resumption of talks.
“The donors are disappointed with the UN, not with Cambodia,” he said. “Japan, France, and even the US, which does not give aid, are disappointed in the UN’s decision.”
Prince Ranariddh, who left Cambodia Monday to present three lectures on the Khmer Rouge in France in addition to undergoing routine medical exams, said he thought the UN might be distracted at the moment because of the trial of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague.
“It’s not that they don’t heed the Khmer Rouge issue. They have heeded it for a long time,” he said, adding that UN cannot be expected to put its stamp of approval on a trial that does not meet international standards.
“The UN has made its decision already. The Assembly and Senate passed [the Cambodian trial law] and the King also signed it. We have no right to protest; leave it to the government,” the prince said.
Sam Rainsy said he was disappointed but not surprised by the pullout.
“I have no illusion that the Phnom Penh government has any real intention of organizing a tribunal that would meet the international standard of justice,” he said. “The only hope for Cambodians to get justice would be the victory of the democratic forces led by the Sam Rainsy Party in the 2003 election.”
He said his party would support a UN trial in The Hague “so there is no political interference from the Phnom Penh government.”