National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh on Tuesday confirmed fears that a plan to resolve the final sticking point between the government and the UN on trying former leaders of the Khmer Rouge will have to be watered down because of pressure within the ruling CPP.
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen returned from a summit in Cuba and said he was set to negotiate with the UN using a plan presented to him by US Senator John Kerry. But since then, he has had to backtrack.
“Hun Sen has accepted John Kerry’s formula, but when he returned home, he faced some problems within the CPP,” Prince Ranariddh told reporters Tuesday after meeting the Laotian prime minister. “So he chose a new formula.”
The Kerry plan is a somewhat complex system in the “mixed” tribunal of Cambodian and UN judges and prosecutors. Under a system of “co-prosecutors”—one Cambodian, one UN-appointed—the plan would be needed if the two prosecutors fail to agree on whom to indict.
If the Cambodian prosecutor tries to block an indictment, this decision would have to be ratified by a “resolution panel” of judges selected from the tribunal’s appeals courts.
The UN apparently favors the plan, because it allows UN judges control over what could be a political process. But diplomats say the CPP is nervous that too much UN control would mean some former Khmer Rouge leaders who now serve in government could stand trial.
Now, the prince implied that the government has forwarded to the UN a slightly different plan on how to resolve disputes between the prosecutors. But officials have not yet said how exactly that plan differs from the Kerry plan.
Cabinet Minister Sok An downplayed tensions within the CPP Tuesday afternoon, after he met Prince Ranariddh to brief him on the revised plan.
“We cannot say anyone opposes or does not oppose [the Kerry plan]. What is important is that we find a formula that is compatible,” Sok An said.
Prince Ranariddh would only say the most recent plan is “basically the same formula” as the Kerry plan, and that he believes the government and the UN will soon reach a compromise. Kerry is set to visit officials in Phnom Penh on Friday, the prince said.
The Council of Ministers in January passed its version of how to conduct the trial and sent it to the National Assembly. The Assembly was slated to debate the law earlier this month but has postponed debate until more progress can be made with the UN.
Aside from parliament passing the law, the government and the UN will have to sign an international agreement to set up the trial, if the UN is to be involved in, and help fund, the proceedings.
Prince Ranariddh said the delay also is due to ongoing renovations at the Assembly building, and that debate on the law won’t start until after the Assembly opens its full session in late May.
“It is too old, and the ceiling is in decay,” Prince Ranariddh said. Another assembly official told Agence France-Presse that the building’s rapid decay is the fault of rampant termites.
In a separate written statement released this week, Prince Ranariddh’s cabinet refuted claims by the Sam Rainsy Party that the prince’s Funcinpec party is bowing to the CPP on the trial.