UN legal experts negotiating how to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime likely will return to Cambodia soon, according to two letters between Prime Minister Hun Sen and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that were exchanged last week and released on Wednesday.
“My colleagues look forward to continuing to work together with (chief UN negotiator) Hans Corell on this issue once again in Phnom Penh at a mutually convenient time,” read Hun Sen’s letter to Kofi Annan, dated May 19.
The correspondence marked the last stage of verbal deliberations between the government and the UN over how to conduct the trial, and the arrival of UN negotiators would mean likely ratification by the two sides of a formal, written agreement.
In the letters, the two sides said their informal agreement, in the form of a revised draft law, will have to pass through the National Assembly before a formal agreement can be signed.
Hun Sen also assured the UN that the proceedings will only focus on leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea regime from 1975 to 1979, despite threats he made early this month to expand the trial’s jurisdiction until 1999 to include foreign countries who supported Khmer Rouge rebels for decades after their overthrow.
Despite their conciliatory tone, the letters did not indicate any urgency to begin debate in the National Assembly.
On an official visit to Cambodia last week, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he strongly urged members of Hun Sen’s executive branch to lobby the Assembly to swiftly pass the law as written by the government and the UN.
Although Hun Sen has warned that the executive has no control over the legislature, Downer said that like in other countries, the leader should use his sway over lawmakers.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith on Wednesday said as soon as Hun Sen and chief trial negotiator Sok An, the minister of Cabinet, return from this week’s donor meeting in Paris, the Assembly will be briefed on the agreement between the UN and Hun Sen.
That agreement includes a plan presented to Hun Sen by US Senator John Kerry to resolve disputes between the trial’s “co-prosecutors”—one UN-appointed and one Cambodian—should they disagree on whom to indict.
Khieu Kanharith did not predict a specific time frame for the law to pass and for the UN negotiators to return.
But he said he doesn’t expect the concerned committees to take too much time revising the law.
“Then, it can all go very quickly in the full session,” he said.