Former Khmer Rouge commanders shunned opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s invitation to meet him Thursday morning at the National Assembly and talk about trials for the Khmer Rouge regime.
“Some of them are still in Phnom Penh. I know they are still around,” Sam Rainsy said. “It seems they are not interested in a democratic debate.”
The former Khmer Rouge officials, many of whom were in Phnom Penh over the weekend, had called on Sam Rainsy to explain his hostility toward them. Several times in recent weeks he has called former Khmer Rouge members criminals and has accused the government of trying to protect them from prosecution before an international tribunal.
At a weekend press conference, Sok Pheap, a former Khmer Rouge commander, warned Sam Rainsy to watch his tongue. “Mind your words or you’ll be captured, tied up and shot to death like your father,” he said, according to a tape provided by Sam Rainsy. “I do not know who is going to gun you down, but you’ll be gunned down if you keep protesting.”
Sam Sary, Sam Rainsy’s father, was murdered in the 1960s. Sam Sary also was a politician.
Sam Rainsy received five letters from ex-guerrilla commanders in recent days asking him to speak with them in former Khmer Rouge zones. The letters were signed by more than 30 generals who defected to RCAF in recent years.
The former Khmer Rouge officials could not be reached for comment Thursday. Sam Rainsy said he would travel to western Cambodia in the near future to talk with them.
Without the ex-guerrilla commanders present, Sam Rainsy used Thursday’s meeting to reiterate his support for an international tribunal and blast Prime Minister Hun Sen for welcoming Khmer Rouge leaders into the government.
“The Khmer Rouge integration into the government is more dangerous than when they were in the jungle,” he said. “They have integrated their ideas into the government.”
Afterward, Sam Rainsy left the National Assembly and crossed the street to the site of the 1997 grenade attack that killed at least 17 during a political rally.
A crowd of about 200 men and women who had been sitting in the park gathered around him and, for the benefit of the several dozen reporters trailing him, Sam Rainsy asked their feelings on the Khmer Rouge.
“Do you want an international court?” he asked.
“Yes,” the crowd cheered, throwing their arms in the air.