Deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh vowed at a memorial service Monday that he would find justice for victims of last July’s factional fighting and of other political violence.
“This government will not do anything to find those responsible for killings,” Prince Ranariddh said at a service Monday afternoon at Funcinpec headquarters attended by victims’ families and monks.
“The new government, if I am the next prime minister, will commit itself to see that people responsible for killings…during the coup and after will be brought to justice,” he said.
“I do not accuse any party now, because then it would not be a free and fair trial. I will set up an independent Cambodian tribunal to find out who was responsible for the killings.”
The prince was ousted from the coalition government in the July 5-6 fighting last year that killed an estimated 100 people and damaged hundreds of homes. About 100 other people, mostly Funcinpec officials and activists, were killed after the July fighting in what UN human rights reports have described as politically motivated executions.
Prince Ranariddh said that if Funcinpec comes to power in the July 26 elections, he would also set up a new commission to investigate the March 30, 1997, grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy-led political rally across from the National Assembly that killed at least 17 people. Second Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested at the time that the attack had been arranged by Sam Rainsy himself in order to gain popularity. No arrests have been made in any of the cases.
Earlier Monday, Sam Rainsy, the prince’s nominal ally in the opposition National United Front, led Buddhist prayers with about 500 people at his party headquarters.
“Our memorial today is not only for those who died during and after the July 5-6 barbarous coup…but for all the deaths in Cambodia in the last 30 years of war,” Sam Rainsy said.
Nevertheless, he appealed to Cambodians to try to forgive for the sake of the nation.
“I appeal to victims of this barbarous coup…to please forgive and forget their vengeful thoughts, otherwise we cannot solve our problems,” he said.
The executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, Lao Mong Hay, also appealed to the Cambodian people to set aside their anger and resentment for the July 26 elections. He specifically referred to opposition candidates stoking up resentment against the Vietnamese. Both Sam Rainsy and the prince have appealed to Khmer resentment toward the Vietnamese in their campaigns.
“Let us turn the 1998 election into yet another opportunity to promote further peace and harmony between nations and races,” the statement said.