The CPP's January 7 celebrations - this year the 20th anniversary of the day Pol
Pot was overthrown - was a muted affair, with no hint that the party is about to
bend to international braying for justice for ex-KR chiefs Khieu Samphan and Nuon
Prime Minister Hun Sen delegated speaking duties to President Chea Sim at CPP headquarters,
in front of about 10,000 people.
Sim spoke of the "glorious victory which liberated our country from an unprecedented
catastrophe commited by the Pol Pot genocidal regime". He said: "More than
3 million lives... were miserably killed and those who stayed alive were only waiting
for their turn to be killed."
However - in a tone perhaps different to previous years - Sim said that the victory
had also "educated us... to move forward".
The only mention made by Sim of Samphan and Chea was when he began talking about
the CPP's most important achievement over the last 20 years - that being the dissolution
of the Khmer Rouge.
"As it turned out," Sim said, "peace and security have been even more
consolidated. The recent return... of KR soldiers, especially the announcement on
Dec 25 by Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea to defect from Ta Mok... is an important event
which marks a positive phase that brings a definitive end to the war, and strengthens
peace and national unity in Cambodia."
No other mention of Samphan and Chea was made, nor any reference to trials or tribunals
that had prompted such a flurry of international comment since the pair defected.
Hun Sen, who made telling visits to Hanoi and Beijing in the days leading to the
Christmas phone-call by Samphan to him, cemented his position in a six-page statement
on Jan 1. Previously, it had been difficult to read from his comments whether the
deal done between the government and Samphan and Chea would survive such strong reactions
- mainly from Western and Khmer intellectuals, human rights activists, and the occasional
Foreign Office - to seize and charge the pair.
Hun Sen was moved into the statement because of the "mixture of reactions",
he said, following the defections: "joy [for peace]" and the "unpleasantness
because the KR leaders [were] responsible for the deaths of millions... and [have
not been] prosecuted".
Some people question his change of mind about KR prosecutions, he said, explaining:
"I have never reduced my efforts to eliminated Pol Pot's genocidal regime...
the ëwin-win' solution was used for the pacification in areas of KR-control."
But now, he said, the danger of the Pol Potists returning had ended and "peace
prevails... for the first time since after World War II...".
"It's regrettable that people forget the past," he said. As Minister of
Foreign Affairs under the PRK in 1979, Pol Pot and Ieng Sary were sentenced and,
as Prime Minister, Hun Sen said, he had "insisted again and again... to bring
KR leaders to justice." But instead the West gave them a seat in the United
"I still remember with pain that in 1990-91, at the discussions [toward] the
Paris Agreements, I alone insisted on the word ëgenocide'... but I was attacked and
accused as a person with no goodwill to end the war. I was injustly suppressed and
forced to sign with KR leaders.
"Is this not artificial morality during the Cold War and a confrontation of
He said in 1993 the government tried dissolving the KR peacefully "such as the
amnesty granted to Ieng Sary... [in] exchange for peace and national reconciliation".
"Our neighboring friend," he said - in barely disguised reference to Thailand
- "kept the KR leaders... [but] always denied that there were KR leaders on
their territory... that country said it would hand over those people to us as long
as we accepted them [into] society.
"In June 1998 we accepted Chan Youran, Mak Ben, Kor Bun Heng, In Sopheap and
Thiounn Thioeunn and we found those people arrived in Pailin within 48 hours. Lastly,
with Samphan and Chea, within 72 hours... There is no international airport in Pailin...
and they did not travel from Battambang to Pailin."
Those men, Hun Sen said, are live witnesses who can be asked where they were before
entering Cambodia - adding his apologies to his "friends" for being forced
to speak the truth. "I do not ask ëwhere is Ta Mok?' if it is not necessary."
Now, Hun Sen said, he suffers again for establishing peace in Cambodia and "forgetting"
to mention prosecutions. "I do not forget to mention," he said, "but
just not yet. I mention about peace first...".
Hun Sen said that a KR tribunal would be set up in "in accordance with the opinion
of national and international legal persons".
But according to his "little knowledge" many questions had to first be
answered, such as how the tribunal would be set up, whether it would be in Cambodia
or abroad and who the judges would be and under what laws it would answer.
"Due to the above long description, I have decided to welcome Khieu Samphan
and Nuon Chea to return to join in the national society to end the war, uphold national
reconciliation, reunification and to end the political and military organization
of the Khmer Rouge." His letters to King Sihanouk, Assembly chief Norodom Ranariddh
and honorary CPP president Heng Samrin "mentioned only peace and national reconciliation...
I did not assure any one from the power of the court. I respect the courts' independence.
Hun Sen's final words suggested, however, that Samphan and Chea may be unlikely ever
to see the inside of a courtroom. The pair had never been charged, he said, nor sentenced,
so amnesy was un-necessary. There were no warrants for arrest and they had volunteered
to defect; and, he said, if they were arrested, the Cambodian government would be
"a coward and undisciplined military commander".
"The real success is not killing all enemies but peacefully stopping the fight,"