National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Thursday the government, namely Prime Minister Hun Sen, is “willing to change” its draft law on how to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.
“Hun Sen has expressed concern about the prosecutor and judge—he wants to find a formula to break the stalemate,” said Prince Ranariddh, who noted he recently sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with another request for continued talks with the world body.
“As I see it, Hun Sen is willing to change some of the draft, as some countries and NGOs have requested,” the prince said at his home after a meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan.
The cabinet early last month completed a draft law that would establish a special chamber within the Cambodian court system to hold the trial. The draft has been forwarded to the National Assembly for debate, where the prince said Hun Sen hopes to see “some changes to make it right.”
“Hun Sen would like to have a debate among the UN delegation and the National Assembly,” Prince Ranariddh said.
After the draft was passed by the Council of Ministers, the government requested a UN delegation to come here but they have yet to respond.
At issue between the sides is a system of “co-prosecutors”—one Cambodian, one foreign—on the court that the UN said would lead to “paralysis” if the two cannot agree on which suspects to indict.
Hun Sen appeared to agree with this criticism somewhat earlier this week.
“If the two cannot reach agreement…it cannot move forward,” he told a conference of Asian editors Monday, apparently acknowledging a suspect could remain outside the tribunal’s grasp even if one of the prosecutors favored indictment.
Om Yentieng, a top adviser to Hun Sen, on Thursday confirmed the government’s willingness to alter the draft.
“We are open to the UN experts before we finish this law,” he said. “Hun Sen has finished his job, and now the government has sent it to the National Assembly…. In the National Assembly, we can change anything, with or without the UN. This is the purpose of a lawmaking body.”
The Assembly’s legislation commission will debate the draft law this afternoon after canceling a Thursday meeting.
Since the government in 1997 first requested UN assistance to try those responsible for more than one million deaths from 1975 to 1979, it has sparred with the UN over how to conduct the trial.
The last UN delegation came here in August and demanded that the trial meet international standards. Wary of Cambodia’s notoriously corrupt judicial system, the delegation pushed for heavy UN involvement in selecting the trial’s jurists. The government’s draft puts Cambodian judges in the majority and only allows for UN involvement in the appointment of foreign judges.