PM: KR Tribunal Could Begin in December

A special tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders could begin by the end of the year, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in Tokyo late Wednesday.

The law governing the tribunal could be enacted and signed by August if there are no problems, he told reporters after the two-day Consultative Group Meeting of international donors, according to Reuters.

Returning to Cambodia from Japan Thursday afternoon, Hun Sen did not speak to reporters.

Instead, Minister of Cabinet Sok An gave an hour-long briefing inside the airport terminal here, in which he said he could not foresee any hurdles to “disturb the pro­cess” of passing the tribunal law.

“Progress is going on as before,” he said. “[Hun Sen] has made it very clear in his statement [in Tokyo] on the timing.”

The process of getting the tribunal law from the National Assembly to the Senate to the Constitutional Council to King Norodom Sihanouk for a signature has been stalled since Feb­ruary over a clause in the law passed by the assembly in Jan­uary that includes a reference to the death penalty. Cambodia’s Constitution outlaws executions.

“We, as the Cambodian government, would like to end the Khmer Rouge issue as soon as possible,” Hun Sen was quoted by Reuters as saying Wednesday. “We do not like the Khmer Rouge ghosts to continue to haunt us.

“At this time we would like to devote ourselves to social and economic development, and poverty reduction of the people.”

International donors pledged $615 million in aid to Cambodia for the current year, a figure that exceeded the government’s request by 20 percent. Donors granted $560 million for government programs and an additional $55 million for non-governmental organizations operating in the country.

When asked at the airport Thursday if he was surprised with the extra amount of aid, Hun Sen gave only a brief reply before ducking into his black Mercedes with his wife, Bun Rany.

“Surprised or not surprised, you should ask the person who will talk to you,” he said, referring to Sok An.

Sok An told reporters that the government had “total success at the meeting” despite the fact that opposition party leader Sam Rainsy “wanted to create difficulties at the dog show.”

Sok An said donors will fund for next year’s commune elections and gave $45 million for the demobilization of soldiers.

Sam Rainsy also returned to Cambodia from Japan Thursday. In remarks to donor meeting participants, he had said donors must hold the government more responsible, because their unconditional giving “condones government corruption” and worsens Cambodia’s situation.

Many critics saw the donor meeting as an opportunity to gauge the progress of reform. Other critics have argued that the meeting’s outcome was pre-determined.

Kao Kim Hourn, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said he was initially surprised at the $615 million figure.

“On the other hand, it was not surprising given that the country is recovering from years of destruction. And outsiders have had some role in that destruction,” he said. “We need to maintain the momentum of reform, and the support of the international community will provide the catalyst for reform….[But] it is true that we can pick up speed.”

While the pace of reforming Cambodia’s government and society may not be going as fast as the international community wants, the nation is better than it was during the years of civil war, said French Ambassador Andre Jean Libourel.

“We don’t want Cambodia to go back to where it was years ago,” he said. “Maybe they aren’t going as fast as they should….But I don’t know what conditionality means. When we French help, we do it.”

The two-day meeting, which brought together 15 countries as well as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, was the fifth since 1996.

Donors gave $548 million in Paris last year.


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