THE United Nations' Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, told a UN press conference March
12 that international ambassadors to Cambodia should talk to the Cambodian government,
not the UN, if they wished to see progress on a Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Annan said that since the UN's shock withdrawal February 8 from the proposed Khmer
Rouge tribunal, ambassadors from around a dozen nations had asked him to reconsider
his position. However, he said, the Cambodians were the ones who should be doing
According to an AP report, Annan told journalists that Prime Minister Hun Sen must
"change his position and attitude. [He must] send a clear message that he is
interested in a credible court, a credible tribunal which [will meet] international
The Cambodian government's chief UN negotiator, Sok An, told journalists in Phnom
Penh that he would issue a written response to Annan March 15.
"I am not clear about this statement yet," he said. "After I receive
a full report I will make my own comment."
However Sok An hinted that compromise at this stage was unlikely.
"We've already said what we want to say," he stated, referring to the release
of letters refuting most of the UN's criticisms of the proposed trial agreement.
A group of interested ambassadors, including those of the US and Australia, met in
Phnom Penh Monday to discuss ways of resolving the issue.
US Ambassador Kent Wiede-mann said the meeting did not discuss a multilateral tribunal,
an option that has been floated by some in the wake of the UN's pull-out.
"The common position is that the UN tribunal is the best possible alternative
for bringing about justice for the Khmer Rouge and the only truly credible way of
doing that," he said.
The ambassadors compared notes on their government's discussions with the UN and
with the Cambodian government.
"The outcome of those discussions [with the UN] was pretty negative," said
Wiedemann, who added that "the Secretary-General [has been] pretty inflexible".
Despite that, he said, a UN tribunal was the best option.
"Our common conclusion is that the UN tribunal still remains highly desirable
in order to serve the Cambodian people's need for reconciliation and to overcome
this country's problem of impunity, and maybe do something to add to greater respect
for the rule of law," he told the Post.
Meanwhile the UN's local human rights office expressed concern over the consequences
of the delay in progress towards a tribunal.
"Ta Mok and Duch stand accused of very great crimes," the spokesperson
said of the continued detention of two leading former Khmer Rouge.
"It is a matter of serious concern that they have been held for more than three
years without trial. It is hoped that ways can be found soon to resolve the complex
legal and moral arguments surrounding their detention."