Rohrabacher Rebuked for Attack on Hun Sen

Two Cambodian genocide experts say that a US congressman’s call to condemn Second Prime Minister Hun Sen as a war criminal has “no basis in fact or law.”

Craig Etcheson, formerly of the Cambodia Genocide Pro­gram at Yale University in the US, and Steven Heder, a lecturer at the University of London, wrote in an open letter to the US Congress that “no credible evidence exists” to implicate Hun Sen in the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

And while “grave human rights violations” have occurred in Cambodia since Hun Sen came to power, “as egregious as these human right violations may be, they do not cross the threshold into genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, as de­fined in international law,” the two wrote in a Sept 26 letter.

Earlier this month, US Con­gressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced a non-binding bill that if passed would “express the sense” that Hun Sen is culpable for “war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.” Rohra­bacher represents an area in the state of California that has the largest contingent of Cambodian-Americans in the US.

Besides the killings during the Khmer Rouge regime, the resolution blames Hun Sen in part for killings and torture during the 1979-89 Vietnamese occupation, executions after the “coup d’etat” in July 1997, and the recent “violent crackdown” on opposition demon­strators.

In his remarks introducing the resolution, Rohrabacher said Hun Sen was becoming Cambo­dia’s new Pol Pot.

Wrote Etcheson and Heder of Rohrabacher’s resolution: “While permitting human rights violations to be committed with im­punity will only encourage further violations, it is a disservice to the rule of the law and the truth to make baseless or grossly exaggerated allegations to achieve a political end.”

The two implied that such political tactics are no different from the way Hun Sen has abused his power “to attack, imprison and even allegedly kill his political enemies.”

Etcheson and Heder go on to write that US Congress should not fall into such a rhetorical trap, “especially not in the name of democracy and human rights. Instead, they should focus their efforts on promoting and supporting serious investigations in­to those human rights violations for which Hun Sen might credibly be held accountable, and to making sure that United States policy helps to bring about an end to the climate of impunity that allows grave human rights vi­o­lations to continue in Cambo­dia.”

Rohrabacher’s resolution is to be considered by the US House’s International Relations Com­mit­tee on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse. A senior US official in Wash­ington told the news service that the next few weeks are crucial for resolving Cambodia’s political crisis.



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