THE PAST fortnight has seen little in the way of talks resuming between the government
and the United Nations on the stalled Khmer Rouge tribunal, but did see the death
of one man who was widely expected to be indicted for his role in the deaths of thousands,
Pok, who was a senior military commander of the KR, died on his way back from medical
treatment in Thailand February 15 and was buried in Anlong Veng two days later. He
defected to the government in 1998 and lived out his days as an advisor to the Ministry
of Defense (see story pages 8 and 9).
The government also extended the pre-trial incarceration of another former military
chief Ta Mok, who has been in jail in Phnom Penh since March 1999. Mok was originally
charged with genocide, a charge that under a revision of Cambodian law meant he could
be held for three years before being charged.
The normal limit stipulated in Cambodian law is that suspects are held for a maximum
of six months. That term was set to expire March 6, although Prime Minister Hun Sen
had said several times he would not allow Ta Mok to be released.
The government announced late February that Mok would be charged with crimes against
humanity, which extends his detention for a further three years. Investigating judge,
Ngin Sam An, told the Post that the military prosecutor Soa Sok had taken the decision
to charge Mok with crimes against humanity February 22.
"If we examine the content of the Khmer Rouge trial law, we have enough reasons
on the basis of the law to charge Ta Mok," he said. "The crimes we are
most interested in are the crimes against humanity. Now we will leave the KR tribunal
to decide on the case."
"We don't have enough evidence to prove the case against the suspect [Ta Mok]
yet," he said, "and we are concerned about his state of health and his
age. I don't think he will survive the time it will take to establish the tribunal."
Mok's lawyer, Benson Samay, was unavailable for comment, but Thun Saray, president
of local human rights group ADHOC, condemned extending Ta Mok's incarceration, saying
the move had no basis in law.
"It is unjust for the suspect, because the other leaders remain free in society.
None of them have been arrested," Saray said. He said that as the National Assembly
had passed the change to keep Mok in jail originally, he accepted that extension.
"But the three year pre-trial period finishes March 6, so Ta Mok should be freed
from detention on that date," said Saray. "This simply shows that Cambodia's
judiciary is under the influence of politics."
"I have noted also that the government does not have the will to bring former
Khmer Rouge leaders to stand trial," he said. Saray blamed the government for
the current hiatus in negotiations with the UN.
Much of the international community was aghast at the UN's decision to pull out of
further negotiations with the Cambodian government over the KR tribunal. The Post
understands that there a demarche meeting February 21 between UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan, who took the decision to withdraw, and a group of ambassadors to the
UN led by Australia.
It included representatives from the European Union, the US and Canada, all looking
for Annan to reverse his decision. The UN has as yet made no announcement about any
change of heart.