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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rainsy tribunal backflip confuses party

Rainsy tribunal backflip confuses party


Sam Rainsy pushes for UN trials of the Khmer Rouge at a demonstration

in Phnom Penh in 1999.


am Rainsy Party members are expressing concern and confusion over opposition leader

Sam Rainsy's March 6 appeal to the US government to refuse to fund a future Khmer

Rouge Tribunal.

Rainsy made the appeal in a speech to the US Council on Foreign Relations, saying

that the ruling CPP had defacto control of he planned "Mixed Tribunal"

that effectively nullified the application of international standards of justice.

Rainsy asked that the US instead redirect funding earmarked for the KR tribunal to

preparations for the long delayed commune elections scheduled for 2002 and the 2003

national elections.

"We believe that proper justice can be rendered to the Cambodian people only

when democracy is established in Cambodia," Rainsy told the Post in an email

response to his Washington speech. "To effectively help the Cambodian people

in their search for justice, priority should be given instead to the organization

of the commune elections in 2001 and the general elections in 2003."

In Phnom Penh, Rainsy's assertions have prompted a bout of collective head-scratching

among SRP legislators, who along with Rainsy unanimously voted in support of the

KR draft law with no debate on Jan 2.

Legislators contacted by the Post claim to have been taken by surprise by Rainsy's

speech, insisting that they had not been consulted prior to Rainsy's announced change

in SRP policy regarding the KR tribunal.

"I didn't know about Sam Rainsy's request that the US not fund the KR tribunal

and his intention to delay the KR tribunal until after the two elections," said

SRP MP Sam Sundoeun.

But Sundoeun justified the move in light of delays that have beset the tribunal's

formation since Jan 2.

"...the whole KR tribunal law [process] like a children's game,"

he said. "The legislative branch worked hard to pass the draft law...but now

it is stuck in the government's hands."

SRP legislator Sun Kim Hun expressed concern about Rainsy's advocation of a two year

delay in the tribunal's formation, saying the advanced age and reputed ill-health

of KR suspects such as former military chief Ta Mok required the tribunal to be established

as quickly as possible.

"I don't want to delay the KR tribunal...I want to see the tribunal set up as

soon as possible because we don't want to see Khmer Rouge die before trial,"

he said.

The apparent policy gap between Rainsy and his party was attributed by SRP legislator

Son Chhay to Rainsy's busy schedule.

"I never heard about [the policy change] directly from Sam Rainsy," Chhay

said. "[But] we know that Sam Rainsy is busy so maybe he had no time to talk

to us about this."

Rainsy himself dismissed suggestions that his Washington appeal contradicted his

Jan 2 vote supporting the draft tribunal law.

"We voted in favor of the Khmer Rouge trial law because voting against it would

have given our opponents an argument for accusing us of opposing a Khmer Rouge trial,"

Rainsy said.

When asked about possible divisions in his party from his unexpected policy change,

however, Rainsy was more ambiguous.

"We are sharing information and co-ordinating our position," Rainsy responded

by email from the US.



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