A media report claiming the UN has rejected Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise to compromise on the legal framework of a Khmer Rouge tribunal was greeted with shock by government officials on Thursday.
An unnamed UN official told the Reuters news agency in New York on Wednesday the world body would not return to trial negotiations, despite Hun Sen’s offer to amend Khmer Rouge trial legislation.
The UN withdrew from almost five years of negotiations on setting up a Khmer Rouge tribunal in February, claiming the court system envisaged by Phnom Penh would not be impartial.
Reuters reported the UN was unwilling to restart talks that may go nowhere.
“We continue to seek concrete signs that our minimum requirements for a fair and credible trial will be met,” the UN official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“We welcome the efforts of other interested parties to work toward that goal,” the UN spokesman told Reuters. “But for now the United Nations sees no reason to change from the policy we announced in February.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong said he was unaware of the report but said the world body would be alone in rejecting Hun Sen’s decision to compromise.
“If this story is true the United Nations is responsible for this issue,” Hor Namhong told reporters.
“We have not yet received a reaction from the United Nations. But we know all countries in the world welcome Hun Sen’s new stance.”
Hor Namhong said Hun Sen had spoken by telephone with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan before announcing on Tuesday he was willing to make concessions to the UN to kickstart new talks.
Hun Sen has previously insisted there would be no compromise with the UN or changes to the Khmer Rouge trial law. Hun Sen’s announcement on Tuesday was greeted with approval by foreign diplomats and observers in Phnom Penh.
“This is between Kofi Annan and Hun Sen. After speaking on the telephone they understand each other. I hope, and I believe, the United Nations will answer positively,” Hor Namhong said.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, Cambodia’s chief negotiator with the UN on the Khmer Rouge trial, was prepared to meet with Kofi Annan “wherever, whenever,” Hor Namhong said.
A source close to the trial negotiations said the reported UN response was extremely negative in light of Hun Sen’s offer to re-negotiate.
The UN official quoted by Reuters may not be aware of the extent of negotiations currently under way to get the talks back on track, the source added.
“It sounds as though the spokesman does not know what is going on,” the source said.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said in an interview broadcast by Voice of America on Wednesday that Hun Sen was under international pressure to involve the UN in a Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Sam Rainsy also accused the government of footdragging on the trial, which he said could implicate members of Hun Sen’s CPP in crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.