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
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
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
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
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
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.