The full US House of Representatives passed a resolution Saturday condemning Second Prime Minister Hun Sen as a war criminal.
The measure, which urged the US government to collect evidence for a possible indictment and international trial against Hun Sen, reflects the opinion of the lawmakers only, and is not binding in law.
Through the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, the US State Department issued a statement last week saying that it doesn’t support the resolution.
Khieu Kanharith, government spokesman, said Sunday that the passage of the resolution sponsored by California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher was “not a surprise” and that the government isn’t worried about it.
“The opposition will try to exploit the situation,” Khieu Kanharith said, “but it [the resolution] does not have any force of law.” The government has said it is considering suing Rohrabacher for defamation of Hun Sen.
In a telephone conversation from Paris, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday he lobbied US lawmakers to pass the resolution and was “very satisfied” they had done so.
“I know it will create waves in Cambodia, but I think that it will send a message to Hun Sen to be careful not to use violence against his opponents,” Sam Rainsy said.
The amended resolution expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the culpability of Hun Sen for violations of international humanitarian law after 1978.”
It specifically cites Hun Sen’s involvement in the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, and his alleged responsibility for the violence before the 1993 elections, the street battles of July 1997 and the recent crackdown on demonstrators. It characterizes the current government led by Hun Sen as a “repressive and violent regime.”
Two Cambodian genocide experts have said that there’s no evidence connecting Hun Sen to mass killings during the Khmer Rouge regime, and that the resolution represents a “disservice to the rule of the law.” (Additional reporting by Mhari Saito)
At least two Khmer-language newspapers recently suggested government supporters might take action against Americans if the resolution passed the House.
In a letter sent last Thursday to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, nine US congressmen including Rohrabacher criticized the US State Department for its lack of support of the resolution.