WHILE the Cambodian government and the UN continue to disagree over who should control
a future trial against former Khmer Rouge leaders, director of the Documentation
Center of Cambodia (DC Cam), Youk Chhang has launched a proposal that may ease Cambodian
anxiety over who and how many will be indicted and prosecuted at the tribunal.
The current tribunal draft law, scheduled to be debated in the National Assembly
on April 19, states that the tribunal will bring to justice "senior leaders
of Democratic Kampuchea and other persons responsible for the most serious crimes
and violations ... committed between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979".
The law text leaves the definition of people eligible for prosecution up to interpretation,
thus creating fear among many government officials that they themselves may be targeted
by the tribunal.
Instead, Chhang suggests a narrower and more precise definition of who the tribunal
has jurisdiction to investigate and possibly prosecute. He proposes to concentrate
on the members of the Communist Party's Central and Standing Committees, which will
limit the number of possible defendants to about 25.
"The key to the tribunal is the definition of the leadership. And it is not
a question of how many people they killed, but how much power they held," Chhang
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea divided its members into
* Full rights members, who also made up the Standing Committee, were people
like Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ta Mok.
* Candidate members were, among others, Khieu Thirith, Khieu Ponnary and the
four Thiounn brothers.
* The members group - some 10 to 15 people - comprised among others Duch,
Ke Pok, Suong Sikeoun and Long Norin.
In the latter and least powerful category were also current Foreign Minister Hor
Namhong and Finance Minister Keat Chhon. However, most other government ministers
and officials like Prime Minister Hun Sen himself and CPP Honorary President Heng
Samrin do not fall into any of the categories.
Chhang's proposal has been met with positive interest by diplomats involved in trying
to nudge the tribunal negotiations along. Also, Mohn Sophan, chairman of the National
Assembly's legislative committee, which is reviewing the tribunal law before the
debate in parliament, is initially positive.
"My understanding is that the proposal is good. But maybe it is too narrow.
We don't want to limit the tribunal," says Sophan.
Meanwhile, the question remains how much the National Assembly will actually have
to debate on April 19. According to Sophan, the committee has so far only finished
working with four of the draft law's 46 articles, and one of those has been withdrawn
by the government.
Sophan said that the committee could not progress faster because government officials
never had time to discuss the draft law with the committee members.
Since the March 22 departure of a UN negotiating team, led by Undersecretary-General
Hans Corell, the UN has officially awaited the outcome of the parliamentary debate,
although negotiations reportedly continue behind the scene.
On a formal level, Hun Sen and UN secretary-general Kofi Annan met on the outskirts
of a third world nations summit in Havana on April 11, but at Post press time there
were no independent reports of the result of the talks.