Minister of Cabinet Sok An will travel to New York next week to restart negotiations toward a tribunal for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.
“I have just received a letter from [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan,” the premier said in remarks outside the Council of Ministers that were broadcast on Apsara Radio.
The letter invited the government to send a delegation to New York on Jan 6, for discussions that Hun Sen said would precede “detailed talks we will hold in Phnom Penh.” Sok An, who has been the government’s trial negotiator for the five years since negotiations began, was chosen to lead the delegation, the prime minister said.
“I decided that this is to be considered a beginning, a return [to negotiations],” Hun Sen said.
Negotiations had been in limbo for nearly a year when the UN General Assembly last week passed a resolution mandating Annan to restart them.
Some human rights groups have criticized the resolution as too weak, saying it could allow international standards of justice to be perverted by Cambodia’s weak judiciary. Other observers counter that even an imperfect trial is better than nothing for a country whose population has already waited nearly 24 years for justice.
Earlier this month, Sok An said the government would prefer to hold talks in Phnom Penh. Hun Sen, in his remarks Tuesday, also seemed to be counting on a UN delegation making the trip later on.
The UN mandate allocated $44,800 to send a delegation to Cambodia for talks.
Besides a trial staged in 1979 by the Vietnamese-backed government, which convicted Khmer Rouge mastermind Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, Khmer Rouge leaders have never been called to court to answer for the 1975 to 1979 regime that caused the deaths of more than 1 million people.
In February, the UN called off talks toward forming a tribunal that would have mixed national and international influence, saying the Cambodian side wasn’t making sufficient concessions to ensure fairness.