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Senate approves KR tribunal law change

T

HE Senate approved July 23 a change to the Khmer Rouge (KR) tribunal law eliminating

the death penalty as punishment. Fifty one senators approved the alteration, which

was necessary as the death penalty is prohibited under Cambodian law.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen said this week that it was up to the courts to

decide whether or not to try various former leaders of the KR. He said the government

had not yet received a warrant ordering the arrest of Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea or

Ke Pauk.

Referring to Ieng Sary, the Prime Minister said that as Sary had defected to the

government under an amnesty, it was up to the court to decide whether or not to charge

him.

In familiar style, Hun Sen rounded on the United Nations, which has been assisting

the government in the establishment of the tribunal.

"I am happy if you participate, but if you do not, I can do without you. I am

not worried whether you participate or not. I will go along with Khmer law. I do

not need you," he said.

Hun Sen again criticized the UN for supporting the CGDK's claim to the country's

UN seat during the eighties and treating former KR leader Khieu Samphan as a VIP.

"I don't understand," he said. "When I received Khieu Samphan and

Nuon Chea, [the international community] criticized me, but they forgot [what they

did]."

During the Senate debate that approved the removal of the death penalty, Sam Rainsy

Party lawmaker Kong Kom criticized the Minister for the Council of Ministers, Sok

An, for the length of time he had taken in making this change.

Kong said that the government knew in February that the revision would be necessary.

Sok An, who is head of the government's negotiating team for the Khmer Rouge tribunal,

said that once the revised law had been promulgated, talks with the UN would begin

again on the memorandum of understanding that would establish the tribunal.

Echoing the Prime Minister's comments, Sok An said: "We need the UN's assistance

but we don't want them to put pressure us to follow them 100 percent."

He added that he was optimistic that the tribunal process would move forward and

that negotiations on the memorandum between the UN and the government would not be

difficult.

Now that the revised law has been approved by the Senate, the next step will see

it examined by the Constitutional Council. That started on July 31 and should be

completed within a week, said Bin Chhin, a member of the Council.

"We have one month to re-examine the law. If there are no problems the law should

soon be approved," he said. The final stage requires the approval of King Norodom

Sihanouk.

In a statement issued in mid-July, the King said that the government, the Senate,

the National Assembly and the tribunal court had the right to consider the issue.

"I have the honor to inform my compatriots that the court will decide whether

or not to try the Khmer Rouge leaders, particularly in the cases of Ieng Sary, Nuon

Chea and Khieu Samphan. I will not interfere in this issue," the statement read.

The President of the National Assembly, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, told reporters

on July 27 that he believed the King would certainly sign the document, as it reflected

the decision of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The prince stressed that although he had not received such a message from the King,

he knew the King had said as much after his July meeting with Yasushi Akashi, the

former head of UNTAC.

The King's approval would clear the way for the government and the UN to finalize

the memorandum of understanding formally establishing the tribunal.

A press release from the annual meeting of the central committee of the Cambodian

People's Party (CPP), held July 25-26, stated that the CPP supported the adoption

of the KR tribunal law.

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