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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - MPs muse about political settlement

MPs muse about political settlement

LEGISLATION outlawing the Khmer Rouge should be abolished for the sake of political

negotiations and peace, according to several outspoken Cambodian parliamentarians.

"In order to have peace in Cambodia, we need to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge,"

said Funcinpec MP Ahmad Yahya, a staunch critic of the 1994 law banning the KR. "It

is nonsense for us to outlaw the Khmer Rouge. We made a mistake."

Yahya pointed to the govern-ment's continuing policy, contrary to the law, to welcome

KR defections, and to Hun Sen's public support for this in recent days. "You

can see that the Second Prime Minister himself made a public statement, very clearly,

that he has been doing this [negotiating with the KR].

"It's clear that even if MPs did outlaw the KR, we are still negotiating with

them, secretly or publicly. I appeal to MPs to get together to abolish the Khmer

Rouge law."

Yahya went considerably further, saying he believed any KR leaders - Pol Pot included

- should be free to join Phnom Penh political life if they agreed to lay down their

guns.

"Peace cannot come unless we give and take. I'm happy to see Pol Pot come back,

Ieng Sary come back, Ta Mok, Son Sen or Khieu Samphan come back to form a political

party.

"If they are in the jungle, they can cause problems anytime. In order to have

peace, we have to forget the past for the time-being.

"I say this even though, for myself, frankly, I still have nightmares [about

the Pol Pot era]."

Son Soubert, vice-president of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) faction

headed by his father Son Sann, supported a political settlement with the KR.

"His Majesty the King has always urged a political solution, not a military

one..."

Soubert, who left the country rather than vote on the July 1994 KR law, said: "I

really believe in a peaceful solution to end this kind of killing. I hope at some

time, the National Assembly will withdraw this law."

Though he was uncertain whether Sary was seriously considering defecting, and whether

the rogue KR leader's forces were "important enough to negotiate with",

Soubert supported the KR being allowed to start a political party.

Asked whether his father had been, or would be willing to be, involved in negotiations

with the KR, Soubert said: "I think the only person who can do this is the King,

not any political party. The KR have always said they still recognize the King, [but]

my father has always advocated a political party for them."

Noting that the United Nations had been prepared to let the KR run in the 1993 national

elections, he said he saw no reason why they shouldn't field candidates in 1998.

"If we have the elections, if they are allowed to run in the elections, the

Cambodian people can sanction the Khmer Rouge. If they lose, they are finished."

Soubert and Yahya criticized the United States' position, as expressed in the past,

opposing any future political or government role for former KR leaders.

Yahya rounded on the US-funded genocide investigation as sending "a bad signal"

to the KR, which would only help "kill the peace process. This in not in Cambodian

interests, it's in American interests," said Yahya.

Of Pol Pot, he said: "Punish him? We don't need it. Let God punish him."

But Son Chhay, a member of the BLDP faction which rivals the Son Sann group, said

he hoped the US project would gather the necessary evidence against Sary and other

KR leaders. "Ieng Sary is no exception. He will be brought to justice. He will

be put to trial and he will be punished. We all know he was involved, that he is

a dangerous man, that we cannot wipe away his crimes."

But Chhay said he would support scrapping the KR law because of the potential for

it to be abused by the government to attack political dissidents.

Sam Rainsy of the Khmer Nation Party (KNP) agreed, saying that the law was dangerous

and counter-productive.

Of any bid to abolish the law, he said: "Better late than never."

Rainsy did not object to a KR political party being formed, but reacted with amusement

and disbelief to the possibility that one could be legally recognized by the government

before KNP was.

He was adamant that any KR party should not include Sary and other KR leaders.

"As for certain individuals who are held personally responsible for crimes against

humanity, they must be dealt with properly - justice must have the last word."

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