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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forum calls for trial - no date yet for UN team

Forum calls for trial - no date yet for UN team

While Khieu Samphan's brother, history professor Khieu Seng Kim, spoke out

against a Khmer Rouge tribunal, participants at a public forum on "National

Reconciliation and the Khmer Rouge" in Phnom Penh voted overwhelmingly in favor

of bringing former KR leaders to justice.

"Myself, I cannot stop the

trial. But if we Khmers try Khmers there will be a problem. There will be war

again if the Khmer Rouge are not happy," warned Seng Kim.

But the brother

of the former Democratic Kampuchea president and nominal leader of the Khmer

Rouge movement may have abstained from voting in the subsequent secret ballot.

None of the 136 participants in the vote on how to bring true national

reconciliation to Cambodia said there was no need to try former KR leaders. 114

(83,8 percent) said that they must be tried.

Also, 77 participants (56.6

percent) said that a trial should apply to persons from all regimes both before

1975 and after 1979, not just to the leaders of the KR regime that claimed the

lives of at least 1.7 million people.

The event was the second of three

public forums, organized by the Center for Social Development (CSD). The

previous forum, held in Battambang on Jan 27, saw former KR cadres from Pailin

and Malai speak out in public on the sensitive issue of a KR trial for the first

time. Though they had been invited, no former KR were present at the Phnom Penh

forum.

However, the former guerrillas have already made their stand on

the issue clear to the government. In December a secret meeting was held in

Phnom Penh between Prime Minister Hun Sen and representatives from all former KR

zones in the north and northwest, including Pailin governor Y

Chhien.

"They all blamed Pol Pot and said everybody else was just

following orders. They also said that only those who had not joined the

government voluntarily should be prosecuted," said one of the participants in

the meeting.

Meanwhile, the government is awaiting the arrival of a team

of UN legal experts to try to hammer out the details of a mixed

Cambodian/international KR trial. After months of deadlock in the negotiations

about a tribunal, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan agreed to send a delegation to

Phnom Penh after a meeting with Hun Sen in Bangkok three weeks ago.

No

date of arrival has yet been set for the delegation, that will have to fit in

between other upcoming events such as the quarterly donor review meeting in late

March and Khmer New Year in mid April.

Among the United Nations' demands

is a guarantee from the government that all suspects will be arrested and that

no previous amnesties - like the one granted to former KR foreign minister Ieng

Sary in 1996 - can prevent prosecution. Phnom Penh and New York also disagree on

the number of international and Cambodian judges on the panel as well as the

government-proposed co-prosecution.

Briefing the UN Secutiry Council on

Feb 29, Annan pointed out that "some of these issues are very difficult." He

did, however, hope that the upcoming talks will be "the last and decisive round

of discussions."

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