Prime Minister Hun Sen has not failed to show his delight at the
arrest of the last Khmer Rouge die hard chief Ta Mok. He spoke to Christine Chaumeau
and Bruno Carette about the arrest and his views on an international versus
a local trial.
Question: In June 1997, you wrote to the UN saying that the Cambodian court did
not have enough skills to try the Khmer Rouge. But, will the court that tries Ta
Mok be a national or international court?
Hun Sen: Between 1997 and 1999, the situation has changed a lot. First, the
issues related to the KR movement were completely different when they had the political
and military organization.
That's why we thought that an international tribunal would have been the solution.
But, in 1999, the situation is different, because the political and military organization
of the KR has been dismantled. The KR leaders have defected and Ta Mok has also been
arrested. Two issues still need to be considered.
First, Article 33 of the Constitution forbids the extradition of Khmer citizens.
The second issue [is that] the person who has committed this offense [and] this crime
is Cambodian. The victims are also Cambodian. The offenses were committed in Cambodia.
So, what sort of court will be appropriate? They must also look into the Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes of Genocide, it gives priority to a national
tribunal and not to the international tribunal.
If we need to, maybe we can ask for legal experts from ab-road to help us in the
I fear that the KR issue can lead to a conflict between different countries over
It is a funny thing that those who used to support the Khmer Rouge at the United
Nations are confronting each other over the establishment of a tribunal. But 10 to
20 years ago, they voted in support of the KR at the UN. I am concerned that the
consequence of those conflicts will hinder the reconstruction of our country.
We have already arrested Ta Mok. So, the process of the tribunal must start without
waiting many years for those people to try him [in which time probably] Ta Mok will
I don't think we should delay the process of this case.
Question: So, will there be only Ta Mok on trial? Will Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan
and Nuon Chea go free even though they committed crimes together?
Hun Sen: This is an issue for the court which will lay charges or not. But, I
can tell you the difference.
One person continued to fight against the government till the end, while the other
ones contributed to the end of the war by defecting. Ieng Sary defected with 70 percent
of the [KR] force.
He led a defection movement that step by step brought a collapse of the KR and in
the end leaders [such as] Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea surrendered themselves.
Now, even Ta Mok's answers are in Hun Sen's hands. When I say national reconciliation,
it does not only refer to a few Khmer Rouge leaders. Don't be confused. It involves
a lot of people. They are the factions who had been involved with the Khmer Rouge
between 1979, 1991, 1993, and later until 1997 and 1998.
And all the countries involved. So, the meaning of national reconciliation here
is very broad [as] it includes the international community as well.
Some people, have till today shouted out, 'Try! Try!' but they don't know the consequences.
Many Khmer Rouge leaders have written documents for me. So, those people who are
involved must not be confused. These documents will burst and they won't be able
to maintain their faces.
Some people negotiated with the Khmer Rouge in Bangkok, with Khieu Samphan in Bangkok.
Do you think Khieu Samphan has not given these documents to me? The meaning of national
reconciliation does not only refer to those few Khmer Rouge leaders. It refers to
the others who have been largely involved.
Question: In the UN report, the experts expressed their concern that a tribunal
at a national level could be used for political maneuvering?
Hun Sen: I think this is the talk of a lawyer. A lawyer is a lawyer. I respect
what a lawyer argues. A lawyer is not a politician.
A lawyer looks into the legal aspect. He does not have to think in the way of a politician
who has to make a compromise between peace, national reconciliation and justice.
But don't forget that UNTAC had recognized the judiciary in Cambodia.
Now why did they use this court some eight years ago, but today they complain that
the court is not of the right standard? During the UNTAC era, they never talked about
trying the KR, [but] they talked about recognizing the KR to participate in a political
So, if the lawyers have evolved and changed both in morals and politics I think that
they should end their careers as lawyers and work in politics.
Question: Do you think that Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan or Nuon Chea can be called
by the court as culprits or as witnesses?
Hun Sen: I think that the court will deal with the case according to court procedure.
The persons who were involved will be at least witnesses. Mr. Ieng Sary said in 1996
that he was prepared to confront the court.
I heard that Khieu Samphan is ready to stand in front of the court. I think that
he will put the blame not only on Pol Pot, Ta Mok and Son Sen but also on all the
people who have been involved.
I don't think that he [Ta Mok] will go to jail alone. Ta Mok said during his interrogation
a few days ago that munitions were sent to him from Phnom Penh in 1997.
Question: On one hand you say that the Khmer Rouge are finished but on another
hand you fear that the war could start again. Isn't that a contradiction?
Hun Sen: For the KR I think that if we do not proceed carefully, there might
be some people who are afraid of being tried and might run away to the jungle to
take up arms again.
Only one or two or five hundred of them would be enough to make things difficult
for the Cambodian people.
Then if the war re-occurs what sort of solution should we adopt? If it is a political
solution we will be forced again to treat Khieu Samp-han as a VIP.
If it is a military solution I want the international community to send me cash and
munitions worth $5 billion.
Question: But, your concern that the war will re-occur shows that the KR are not
Hun Sen: It does not mean that the KR are not honest. But, they are scared because
they do not know who will be involved in the trial. This does not mean that there
won't be a trial. We need time to explain it to them.
Question: So, within the framework of a national tribunal you guarantee that they
should not be scared?
Hun Sen: That's right. Whatever the tribunal is, it must not make them scared
and cause them to return to the jungle to continue the armed struggle against the
Question: Do you think that this is an adequate justice for the Cambodian people
who were the victims?
Hun Sen: I would like to tell you that the Cambodian people have found justice
by themselves, not through foreigners. It was through their contribution that the
KR organization, both political and military collapsed.
Pol Pot and Son Sen have died without having the land to bury themselves. Ta Mok
was arrested. Other leaders are living as ordinary people. It is better than the
international [community] who had forced the Cambodian people to recognize the KR.
Question: On what crimes will Ta Mok be tried in the coming days?
Hun Sen: I don't think Ta Mok can get away from the charges of genocide and crimes
against humanity, because it was these crimes in which he was the most brutal person
among the brutal people during the Pol Pot regime as well as during the period [after
Question: The Minister for Foreign Affairs has gone to see Kofi Annan. If Kofi
Annan decides that there must be an international tribunal of the KR, what will happen?
Hun Sen: I'd like to ask for one thing. Please don't come with fire to burn my
house, run away and leave us behind like in the case in 1970.
They came to burn our house, [and] then they all ran away. [When] the Khmer Rouge
took control of power [and] committed genocide, nobody could help us.
So, please don't let this happen [again].
Let us manage our work easily and peacefully under the status of a sovereign state.
Question: How long had you prepared for the arrest?
Hun Sen: Since May 1998. But, we had a lot of difficulties; we did not get the
cooperation from some people. Ta Mok has already given us the answers about where
he went after he left Anlong Veng. We arrested Ta Mok when he came onto Cambodian
soil. It was exactly 27 days that we [spent] to arrest him.
We used a lot of methods. I told our military spies that, "If we put out
the fishing rod without using the bait, the fish won't eat it. So, we have to use
The final order [to arrest] was made during the marriage of my daughter.
So, I had to celebrate the ceremony and then go and discuss [the arrest] with our
On the day of my daughter's wedding, I didn't have much concentration, because I
had to make phone calls and to do this and that in order to arrest Ta Mok.
We arrested Ta Mok in an area which is not far away from the Cambodian-Thai border.
Ta Mok declared that since 1996:'Noeu leu dei mean Mok; neou leu Mok mean Muok; neou
leu Muok mean Mekh.' 'On the Earth, there's Mok; on Mok's head, there's a hat; and
on the hat, there's only the sky.'
But, Ta Mok forgot that there were Cambodian people above Mok's head, including Hun
Sen. Now, Ta Mok is in prison. So, this means Ta Mok is not under the sky alone.
There are many people who are above Mok.