Prime Minister Hun Sen declared Tuesday that he was opposed to further prosecutions of former Khmer Rouge leaders because he feared they would prompt a return to civil war. The prime minister also said that he hoped the UN-backed court runs out of money so that the Cambodian judicial system can take over and speed up the existing cases.
“I will allow this court to fail, but I will not allow Cambodia to have another war. This is an absolute stand. Please prosecute only those people,” Hun Sen said, referring to the five current Khmer Rouge detainees at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
“[If] we prosecute 20 more people, there will be war. Then we will not be able to prosecute those 20 people and war will have started. Thousands of people will be killed. Who will resolve this then?” he added later in his speech at a road inauguration in Preah Sihanouk province.
Hun Sen also called on former Khmer Rouge soldiers to remain calm if more prosecutions are sought by the ECCC.
The international co-prosecutor at the ECCC, Robert Petit, has been pushing for investigations of six more Khmer Rouge suspects, but his Cambodian colleague, Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang, has op-
posed additional prosecutions, citing risks to the country’s peace and stability.
The ECCC’s Pre-Trial Chamber must now arbitrate the dispute.
Speaking at the ECCC on Tues-
day following the hearing of Khmer Rouge prison commander Duch, Chea Leang said she had not heard the prime minister’s speech and added that the matter was unrelated to the day’s proceedings.
“However, I also cannot know for sure what would happen if we start to accuse some more charged persons,” she said through a translator.
At the same news conference, Petit said he was not so far facing any obstacles in the pursuit of further prosecutions.
“I personally will continue working, and when something does come into my way, then I’ll make another decision,” he said.
Hun Sen also said in his speech that he was not happy with Japan’s recent donation of $200,000 to the Cambodian side of the court, which allowed the court to pay staff salaries for the month of March amid a funding freeze from donor countries as negotiations continue around a mechanism for investigating al-
leged corruption at the tribunal.
“I did not welcome the donation. I welcome Japanese donations for Cambodia’s development. I am not happy that Japan donated money for the United Nations to prosecute the Khmer Rouge because I wish for the [ECCC] to run out of mon-
ey,” Hun Sen said.
If funds run out, international prosecutors and judges will walk away, allowing their Cambodian counterparts to speed up the cases, Hun Sen explained, adding that he supports the court but does not want it to “provoke more problems.”
Hun Sen said that he had or-
dered Cabinet Minister and Dep-
uty Prime Minister Sok An four times not to sign further agreements regarding the ECCC and confirmed that he had decided not to make Monday, the start of Duch’s trial, a national holiday.
The prime minister’s comments on further ECCC prosecutions came on the same day that Duch, for the first time, recognized his crimes in a public court and apologized for them.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison and Isabelle Roughol)