Khmer Rouge Trial Debate Distracting, Hun Sen Asserts
An entirely new draft law for a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders submitted to the National Assembly by the opposition party Tuesday is not likely to be seriously discussed, the party president admits, but it may lead parliamentarians to lean toward a more heavily UN-influenced proceeding.
“It could come a divine surprise that [National Assembly members] will talk about this,” Sam Rainsy said Tuesday. “But we have to be realistic, and I have very little hope.”
Still, Sam Rainsy said he thinks the 11-point document, which would require that Cambodia give full control of who is indicted to the UN, will at least facilitate discussion on softening the government’s plan for a trial dominated by a majority of Cambodian judges.
“It would make us happy if [the trial] was entirely under UN control. This [draft] would at least influence the minds of other parliamentarians to push for a compromise,” Sam Rainsy said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday important issues were taking a back seat to the Khmer Rouge trial.
“Now the Khmer Rouge is over but they still force us to think about Khmer Rouge…developing the social economy, alleviating the poverty is better than talking about the trial of the Khmer Rouge only,” Hun Sen said at the closure of a two-day CPP congress.
According to the current draft law passed by the Council of Ministers in January and forwarded to the National Assembly, the Khmer Rouge trial would incorporate a dual prosecution team, with one foreign and one Cambodian prosecutor. The UN, however, has criticized this notion and argued it could lead to “paralysis” in decided who is indicted.
Sam Rainsy claimed there is more support than thought in the National Assembly for heavy UN involvement but political pressure has caused many to remain quiet—a view that government spokesman Khieu Kanharith rejected.
“They are still in the minority and I’m not sure if anyone will accept this law or not,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Sam Rainsy on Tuesday also claimed that a UN-dominated trial would be more expedient than a combination government-UN trial.
“It is easier…to delegate everything to the UN,” Sam Rainsy said.
A fully international UN tribunal like those of Rwandan and Yugoslavian suspects was rejected early last year when China threatened to veto such a plan in the UN Security Council.
One Western diplomat on Tuesday suggested that Sam Rainsy’s plan is too little too late.
“Given that this process has come so far one could have wished Sam Rainsy would have made serious comment on the existing document,” she said. “I can’t see how introducing this new document into the process is going to help.”
Legal reformer Sok Sam Oeun said local human rights groups already have submitted their concerns to the National Assembly. They agree with a “mixed” tribunal of both foreign and Cambodian judges, he said. But they cautioned that a “supermajority” vote—where at least one foreigner would be required to make a ruling— could make it “very hard to make a decision,” Sok Sam Oeun said.
Other political analysts said more voices in the process would result in a better trial.
“In principle, we need to find the middle ground and pick up the best of each (proposal),” said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.
Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, agreed. “Why not let all voices be heard? Everyone should have a say in the process.”
But he warned that too much foreign involvement could have its repercussions.
“At the end of the day, it is Cambodians who should be in the driver’s seat, because it is the people of Cambodia who have suffered from genocide and also (who will) suffer from a trial. This country will be put on trial.”
(Additional reporting by Kelly McEvers , Phann Ana and Lor Chandara)