A FTER three days of intense debate the National Assembly was able to transform a
divisive bill to outlaw the Khmer Rouge into a law which was acceptable to all
The first salvo in the battle over the bill was fired by
the Finance Minister Sam Rainsy at a talk at the Foreign Correspondent's Club on
June 29. Rainsy passionately spelled out his reasons for complete opposition to
the bill. He sounded alarm bells about the human rights implications of the bill
and he argued passing the law could lead to a police state. With MPs finding
themselves under enormous pressure to vote for the law, the Finance Minister
could only find 15 supporters among them.
However by Tuesday morning,
July 5 Rainsy had changed his tack completely. He told the National Assembly:
"No one opposes the draft law. I support the government but we want to have the
very best law. We want to avoid human rights violations."
On Monday July
4 in the National Assembly 15 MPs who were against the bill made a motion that
discussion of the bill be deferred for a week.
But Funcinpec MP So Chi
noted that the number of MPs supporting the bill was 96, and that the proposal
of the 15 MPs should be considered outvoted already.
The Second Prime
Minister Hun Sen proposed the first compromise. He said: "The majority of the
National Assembly was in favor of including the bill on the agenda.
Kem Sokha, [Chairman of the National Assembly Commission on Human Rights], is
worried about human rights and violence the bill could be amended during
Monday's National Assembly meeting ended with a vote to include
the bill on the agenda and a vote to place the bill as the first item on the
The following are unofficial translations of excerpts from the
National Assembly debate. Subject headings appear in italics.
the law necessary?
Chheang Vun, CPP, said: "The National Assembly and
the government have tried to solve this problem peacefully but have
Minister of Justice Chem Snguon, CPP, said: "The Khmer Rouge has
been outside the law since late 1979 when the people's court tried them.
"After the signing of the Paris Peace Accords the Khmer Rouge were legal
but they did not respect the accords and did not even create a political party.
"They are already outside the law. In the political platform of the
Royal Government the Khmer Rouge is already outlawed. But a neighboring country
still recognizes the group. So, we should pass a law saying that the Khmer Rouge
Dith Munthy, Secretary of State for Defense and CPP MP,
said: "Is the KR autonomous zone against the Constitution? Is Sam Rainsy
protecting the KR or the people? At the UN the KR were ousted and the Royal
Government took the seat. The Royal Government cannot be blamed for outlawing
the KR. The KR were tried with experts from Canada and the US and found guilty
of genocide in 1980."
Minister of State for Inspection Ung Phan,
Funcinpec, asked several questions during the debate: "Can the proposal bring
any economic aid? Does the proposal talk about the neighboring country? Will the
passing of the law result in more military aid from foreign countries, and will
getting that military aid reduce the amount of economic aid that we will
Nov Pena, CPP, said: "Can Sam Rainsy talk and solve the problem
with the Khmer Rouge through peaceful negotiations?"
Rainsy said: "We all
hold the common view seriously condemning the Khmer Rouge for their actions in
the period of 1975-1979.
"Further, we condemn the Khmer Rouge who oppose
the cease-fire, and we want to eliminate the disastrous actions of the Khmer
Rouge. We all want to eliminate them. The proposal, will it be effective in
Cheam Yeap said: "Our country needs the proposal
urgently. The time is ripe to have the proposal. After the signing of the
Constitution by the King the Khmer Rouge still retained an autonomous zone which
Who are the Khmer Rouge?
Monk Sophan said:
"Do we arrest just the soldier or all his family, his babies...?"
said: "We should never arrest the children of the accused."
KR be denounced for failing to form a political party?
Funcinpec, said: "We should not include the phrase 'The Khmer Rouge did not
enroll its political party in the UN sponsored elections,' in the
Sot Say, Funcinpec, said: "I agree with Kan Morn."
said: "If we erase this phrase, these two MPs should resign and their seats
should be given to two Khmer Rouge. The two MPs are protecting the Khmer Rouge
by failing to criticize them for not enrolling in the elections as a political
Revising Article 3 of the Law. Article 3 detailed criminal and
political acts done by the KR without specifying any consequences under the law
of the actions.
Sam Rainsy said: "Article 3 is not useful. It is not
a law but a political statement. The meaning of the article charges the group
with responsibility which is like collective responsibility in Communism. You
should not condemn everyone in the group. The author of this law is not a
Chem Snguon said: "Sam Rainsy is a coward. He threatened to
resign, but he did not. Rainsy wants the return of the Khmer Rouge. Lawyers in
Cambodia are not as foolish as Rainsy is."
Loy Sim Chheang, Funcinpec,
said: "Article 3 is not completely mistaken, we do not need to delete it, only
to modify it.
Rainsy said: "I am sorry if I have made Chem Snguon angry.
I only want the very best law. I speak honestly. Why am I charged with being a
"If I can be charged with being a Khmer Rouge, what about
the people? It would be easier [to charge them]. During the electoral process
many Funcinpec members were killed after being charged with being Khmer
The potential for the law to lead to human rights abuses.
Kem Sokha, BLDP, said: "We want a law that does not allow the Khmer
Rouge to accuse us of being like the Khmer Rouge. Is the court independent? Does
it have sufficient judges? The people can be accused of being Khmer Rouge by
government soldiers just because the Khmer Rouge can enter their village at
Chem Snguon said: "I accept that there are not enough judges but
most of them are not corrupt. I guarantee that no person will be charged with
being Khmer Rouge without sufficient evidence."
Should the Amnesty
period be extended?
A motion was made by Son Chhay, BLDP, to extend
the amnesty period from two months to six months.
He said: "Two months is
not long enough to allow the Khmer Rouge to surrender. Khmer Rouge soldiers will
have to kill their commanders in order to surrender to the government. After the
two months is up they will not dare to surrender."
Should the vote be
Sam Rainsy said: "In accordance with Article 40 of the
Constitution there should be a secret vote. If there is an open vote we will be
afraid of the Khmer Rouge if we agree, and of internal intimidation if we
Chem Snguon said: "I disagree with Sam Rainsy's interpretation
of Article 40. There should not be a secret vote."
Interior You Hokry, Funcinpec, said: "We should not be afraid of
The most important changes to the bill were that it was amended
to explicitly mention the King's Constitutional power to grant pardons to KR
cadre; the amnesty period for low-ranking KR soldiers was lengthened to six
months and explicit protections were added to the bill for those people unjustly
charged with being KR.
The General Secretary of the National Assembly,
Lieutenant General Tol Lah, said : "Prolonged, detailed and extensive debate
resulted in a compromise bill that took into account the concerns of the
"It was my impression that as the members of the National
Assembly met and debated, each side began to understand the concerns of the
"I think the members understood that they all wanted a good bill.
The minority understood the good will on the majority side, and the majority saw
the same in the minority concerns.
"In the end they achieved a consensus
on a bill that both achieves the government aim and protects human
One issue raised during the debate but never resolved was the
question of retroactivity.The BDLP's Son Soubert asked: "Will this law have
retroactive effect?" Without a vote it was decided to allow the courts to make
individual judgements. Some MPs argued that with respect to the crime of
genocide, retroactivity would not present legal problems.