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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN Rights Envoy Says KR Trial On Track

UN Rights Envoy Says KR Trial On Track

The UN rights envoy to Cambodia says that Prime Minister Hun Sen has not changed

his position on supporting a international tribunal for crimes committed by the Khmer

Rouge during their time in power.

"I wanted to make sure his statements did not mean any reversal of his previous

support," Thomas Hammarberg said in a Jan 21 press conference.

Hun Sen has recently suggested widening the scope of a trial, including broadening

the dates of inquiry and investigating the role of other countries in Cambodia's

tragic past. But the rights envoy said the Prime Minister was not insisting on it.

"I find that there is full support for UN work on this and it's still there,"

he said of the RCG's commitment to the trial.

He said the UN's trial parameters, which will not change - "crimes committed

by top KR leaders between 1975-79" - were first specified by Hun Sen himself,

in a Jun 1997 letter with then co-premier Norodom Ranariddh to Kofi Annan requesting

help.

The rights envoy also said that Hun Sen has sent a new letter to Annan, outlining

his reservations about a possible conflict between justice and peace in Cambodia.

Yet Hammarberg said he saw more potential problems for peace in Cambodia in not having

a trial than in having one.

"There is a risk that if [KR accountability] is not addressed in Cambodia, that

this will sow the seeds of unrest in future. Therefore there is no conflict [between

justice and peace] in principle ... One does not secure peace by ignoring crimes

of this magnitude in the long run."

Hammarberg said he combined his KR trial discussions with talks on the lack of investigation

into recent human rights violations, linking the two as part of the larger problem

of impunity.

"These two things go together, it is the same problem" he said. "It

will not be possible to actively put an end to the culture of impunity in this country

without putting the Khmer Rouge leaders to trial."

Hammarberg said he asked the Prime Minister why he welcomed KR defectors Khieu Samphan

and Nuon Chea - whose names are often mentioned by investigators as prime targets

for prosecution - with open arms.

"[Hun Sen] said he was aware of what he did, and to demonstrate to the Cambodian

people that the war was over."

Hammarberg hopes that tribunal proceedings can begin "this millennium".

The tribunal's form will depend on the recommendation of a group of experts studying

the issue, who will present a report to Annan in early February. The report will

be given to the RCG in late February and be made public around mid-March.

During his trip here, Hammarberg also visited Rattanakiri province and brought up

the problems of illegal logging, land rights and indigenous people's rights with

government authorities.

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