Retired King Norodom Sihanouk has invited UN staffers of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to come to the Royal Palace for a three-hour chat about his experiences under the Khmer Rouge, which would, he said, obviate any need for him to testify before the tribunal.
In a communique dated and posted at his Web site Thursday, the retired King invited the ECCC’s UN Public Affairs Officer Peter Foster and other UN staffers to come to the Royal Palace on Saturday, Sept 8, from 9 am to noon to discuss “The Khmer Rouge and Norodom Sihanouk Affair” with him and his wife, Queen Monineath.
The invitation, the retired King added, is voluntary, but the date of the conversation is “fixed” and failure to attend the event would have consequences.
“The ECCC’s UN may accept or not accept this date. If the ECCC’s UN does not accept this date and these hours (9 am to noon), I do not accept and shall no longer accept to see nor speak to, nor correspond with the ECCC’s UN,” he wrote.
Foster said that the UN was aware of Norodom Sihanouk’s Web site communique, but that he had received no official letter from the retired King. Beyond that, he said, “I have no comment at all.”
Norodom Sihanouk started his communique by mentioning a Wednesday news report in which Foster was quoted as saying that it is up to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s prosecutors and judges to decide whom to call as witnesses and whom to indict.
Foster was quoted as saying that the retired King could be called as a witness, “but whether he’s bound to show up is another question entirely.”
In the past, Norodom Sihanouk has expressed his desire to testify at the tribunal. But in his Thursday communique he wrote, referring to the Sept 8 discussion: “After ‘this,’ there will no longer be for me any ‘necessity’ whatsoever to see or to appear before the ECCC’s UN.”
National Assembly Deputy President Nguon Nhel said that no one can reject a meeting with Norodom Sihanouk, who cannot rightfully be summoned to testify at the tribunal.
“This is the retired King’s decision. It is inviolable,” Nguon Nhel said.
He added that the retired King would do well to make clear to the national and international community the depths of his suffering under the Khmer Rouge. “The clarification will help judges bolster the ECCC’s process and clear him of all suspicion,” he said.
Prince Sisowath Thomico also pointed out that Norodom Sihanouk cannot be compelled to testify. “After the clarification, the retired King does not have to testify at the ECCC,” he said.
Norodom Sihanouk said the conversation—which would be conducted, as needed, in Khmer, English and French—would be filmed by a team from the state television network TVK and broadcast in public gardens first in Phnom Penh and then in every province, in alphabetical order.
In his communique, the retired King also mentioned news reports indicating that Prime Minister Hun Sen had defended Norodom Sihanouk’s immunity from prosecution before the ECCC and stressed that the retired King had been a victim of the Khmer Rouge.
“I express to His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen my most affectionate, moved and admiring gratitude for his noble and equitable position taken on my behalf,” he wrote.
Royal Cabinet member Oum Daravuth could not be reached for comment.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)