As top government leaders rejected key terms for the shape of a trial for former Khmer Rouge leaders, the UN’s special envoy to Cambodia on Tuesday reassured a top CPP National Assembly official the proposals are negotiable.
In an hourlong meeting at the National Assembly building with Nguon Nhel, the Assembly’s second vice president, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative Lakhan Mehrotra also emphasized the UN was not seeking to assume control of the trial from the Cambodian government.
“The United Nations is here on a mission of assistance, of helping, extending the help Cambodia has asked the United Nations to extend,” Mehrotra told the Assembly member. “There is no question of Cambodia having one objective and the United Nations having a different objective so the United Nations and the Royal Government have to work together to come to some understanding as to how they should together proceed.”
Nguon Nhel, a member of the CPP’s influential 20-member standing committee, reiterated those concerns as well as worries that the trial could reignite civil war. His comments came just days after former Khmer Rouge leaders warned of new conflict if they are prosecuted.
“In this process some people, former Khmer Rouge, are very concerned, scared in a way,” said Nguon Nhel, who took over the prominent Assembly post following the death of Chem Sgnuon in June. “If they do not understand this process fully they might go back into the jungle…and might create some disturbance.”
But Mehrotra dismissed the idea the trial would shatter Cambodia’s fragile peace with Khmer Rouge defectors. Noting that the trial would only target the “senior leaders responsible for the most serious crimes,” Mehrotra told Nguon Nhel the trial would not cause renewed civil conflict.
“because chaos results not from application of the law but from not applying it.”