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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen draws his line in the shifting sands

Hun Sen draws his line in the shifting sands

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

Chea.

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

Nations.

"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

ideology?"

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,"

he said.

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