Prince Plans Lawsuit for Top Minister

Prince Sisowath Thomico, private secretary to retired King No­rodom Sihanouk, declared Mon­day his intention to sue Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Nam Hong to discover the fate of his deceased parents—if and when a Khmer Rouge tribunal is established.

Expressing doubt over the UN and government’s will to hold the long-awaited tribunal, Prince Thomico said he wished to find jus­tice for his late parents, Prince Sisowath Methavi and Princess Nanette Methavi, the older sister of Queen Norodom Monineath.

In a statement issued Monday, the prince named Hor Nam Hong as the focus of his intended law­suit.

“[I]f the KR Tribunal is set up someday, I will undoubtedly file a suit against HE Mr Hor Nam Hong, to find out about their fate and for their souls to rest in peace,” he wrote in the statement sent to newspapers.

Prince Thomico said in an in­ter­view Monday that his father was detained at Boeung Trabek, a Khmer Rouge political re-education camp in Phnom Penh, from 1975 until his death in 1978 or 1979. His mother was also de­tained there from 1977 until her death at about the same time, he said.

Prince Thomico said he has wit­ness testimonies about his parents’ fate, but declined to elaborate.

Hor Nam Hong is currently in Jakarta and cannot be reached for comment, Foreign Affairs Min­istry press officer Hem Heng said Monday.

“I think no one can speak about this” on behalf of Hor Nam Hong, he said Monday. “It is a personal matter,” he said, adding that he had no contact information for the minister.

Hor Nam Hong’s cabinet chief, Eat Sophea, said on Mon­day that she, too, was unable to reach the minister because he “does not want anyone to disturb him” while in Jakarta. She said Hor Nam Hong will return to Phnom Penh next week. Eat Sophea had not successfully contacted the minister by Tuesday evening.

By Tuesday night, the minister had not responded to fax and e-mail requests for comment.

Hor Nam Hong won a defamation suit against Norodom Siha­nouk in a French court regarding comments then-Prince Sihanouk made in 1989 in relation to the minister’s time at Boeung Tra­bek. Norodom Sihanouk did not appear in court.

In his statement Monday, Prince Thomico noted that Nor­odom Sihanouk has ex­pressed skepticism about the fairness of the proposed UN-backed tribunal.

With the international community so far contributing only $26 million of the $57 million required to establish the tribunal, he added, “[I]t looks as though the international community is also sharing the same concerns.”

“Even though one year of operational costs are covered by these funds, the UN as well as the Royal Government of Cambodia are surprisingly mute about a starting date for the KR Tribun­al,” Prince Thomico wrote.

He continued: “So the true question is: Are the UN and the RGC serious about this tribunal?” Because if they are serious about the tribunal, I, among other victims, will be serious about trying to find out what happened to my revered parents.”

Responding to Prince Thom­ico’s statement Monday, Sean Visoth, secretary of the government’s Khmer Rouge task force, defended the government’s commitment to establish a tribunal.

“From the Cambodian side, we have completed our duty,” he said, adding the government is now waiting for UN member na­tions to contribute funds.

Sean Visoth said the international community was also doing its part to set up the tribunal, ad­ding that international participation would ensure that the trials meet appropriate standards of fairness and justice.

He remained optimistic that a tribunal could be established sometime this year. But, he said, “it depends on how forthcoming the money is.”

Sean Visoth declined to discuss the possible implications of Prince Thomico’s intended lawsuit on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is expected to see only Khmer Rouge leaders stand trial.

“I think it’s too early to talk about this,” Sean Visoth said. “Leave this to the court.”

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cam­bodia, welcomed Prince Thom­ico’s statement Monday and called on others to come forward with witness testimony or other evidence that might be used in the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Youk Chhang added that individual lawsuits against government officials or others would not likely deter the government from holding the tribunal.

“I’m sure that a lot of victims’ voices want to be heard…. Leave it to the court to decide,” he said.

“The only way victims can find justice is to get together and file law­suits against people responsible for the deaths of their relatives,” Prince Thomico said.

Responding to concerns about the fairness of the tribunal, Youk Chhang said: “Justice is defined in different ways.”


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