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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Politics of trying Pol Pot

Politics of trying Pol Pot

H UN Sen and Ung Huot have vowed support for efforts to bring Pol Pot to an international

trial - lashing out at Prince Norodom Ranariddh at the same time - but skepticism

abounds over the Khmer Rouge supremo ever being brought to justice.

In a letter to a United States senator last week, the Prime Ministers expressed hope

that "notorious criminals" including Pol Pot could face an international

tribunal in a "trial of the century". The pair also strongly attacked Ranariddh,

accusing him of breaching Cambodian and US law by colluding with the KR.

Diplomats and some government officials say that attempts to establish an international

tribunal to try Pol Pot have been scuttled by foreign condemnation of Hun Sen's July

power grab, and by ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh's de facto military alliance with

the KR.

"The momentum for an international tribunal against the Khmer Rouge leadership

was gaining pace before the breakdown of the coalition in July, but I fear that momentum

may now be lost," said one foreign diplomat.

The Cambodian government submitted a request to the United Nations in June for the

creation of such an international tribunal, while Funcinpec negotiators with KR hardliners

in Anlong Veng claimed that they were close to persuading Pol Pot's deputies to hand

him over for a trial.

The subsequent July 5-6 overthrow of Prince Ranariddh has seen Funcinpec resistance

fighters join with KR from Anlong Veng to fight the new government, while the UN

has refused to recognize either Hun Sen or Prince Ranariddh.

"Until the United Nations can resolve the issue of exactly who should represent

Cambodia, it is unlikely that they will make any decision on setting up a tribunal,"

the diplomat said.

The UN Credentials Committee decided Sept 19 to leave Cambodia's UN seat vacant indefinitely,

a move widely interpreted as a blow to Hun Sen and de facto recognition of Ranariddh.

The foreign diplomat said it was certain that Ranariddh was "supping with the

devil", adding: "We should remember these are not the 'new' Khmer Rouge

he is dealing with. These are the people who are responsible for the Cambodian genocide."

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng appeared to agree, saying late last month: "The

US and UN support for Ranariddh means they are inadvertently supporting the Khmer

Rouge, the real killers in our nation who Ranariddh has joined with to fight against


Nothing has been heard of Pol Pot since he was officially purged from the guerrilla

movement in a July 25 "People's Tribunal" in Anlong Veng, dismissed by

many observers as propaganda.

US senator William Roth, a Republican from Delaware, last month submitted a senate

resolution in support of an international court to be set up to try Pol Pot and other

KR leaders.

His move prompted a letter from Hun Sen and Ung Huot, who replaced Ranariddh as First

Prime Minister, which said that the KR "are using any means necessary to regain

political legitimacy and power in Cambodia".

The Prime Ministers accused Ranariddh and his allies of colluding with the rebels,

in "gross violation" of Cambodian and US law, especially the Cambodia Genocide

Justice Act, and that their "crimes" should not be tolerated.

It maintained that the July fighting in Phnom Penh was an attempt to prevent a return

to power by the KR, after Ranariddh's collusion with the rebels had "brought

the country to the brink of civil war".

The Prime Ministers appeared to imply, but did not directly say, that they believed

Ranariddh should join Pol Pot in the dock.

Proclaiming that the Cambodian people were grateful that the KR's war plan had been

frustrated, they wrote: "Now, with some encouragement of some friendly countries,

we hope to be able to apprehend and to hand over those notorious criminals, including

Pol Pot, to your proposed international criminal tribunal," they wrote. "It

will be the trial of the century."



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