While Khieu Samphan's brother, history professor Khieu Seng Kim, spoke out
against a Khmer Rouge tribunal, participants at a public forum on "National
Reconciliation and the Khmer Rouge" in Phnom Penh voted overwhelmingly in favor
of bringing former KR leaders to justice.
"Myself, I cannot stop the
trial. But if we Khmers try Khmers there will be a problem. There will be war
again if the Khmer Rouge are not happy," warned Seng Kim.
But the brother
of the former Democratic Kampuchea president and nominal leader of the Khmer
Rouge movement may have abstained from voting in the subsequent secret ballot.
None of the 136 participants in the vote on how to bring true national
reconciliation to Cambodia said there was no need to try former KR leaders. 114
(83,8 percent) said that they must be tried.
Also, 77 participants (56.6
percent) said that a trial should apply to persons from all regimes both before
1975 and after 1979, not just to the leaders of the KR regime that claimed the
lives of at least 1.7 million people.
The event was the second of three
public forums, organized by the Center for Social Development (CSD). The
previous forum, held in Battambang on Jan 27, saw former KR cadres from Pailin
and Malai speak out in public on the sensitive issue of a KR trial for the first
time. Though they had been invited, no former KR were present at the Phnom Penh
However, the former guerrillas have already made their stand on
the issue clear to the government. In December a secret meeting was held in
Phnom Penh between Prime Minister Hun Sen and representatives from all former KR
zones in the north and northwest, including Pailin governor Y
"They all blamed Pol Pot and said everybody else was just
following orders. They also said that only those who had not joined the
government voluntarily should be prosecuted," said one of the participants in
Meanwhile, the government is awaiting the arrival of a team
of UN legal experts to try to hammer out the details of a mixed
Cambodian/international KR trial. After months of deadlock in the negotiations
about a tribunal, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan agreed to send a delegation to
Phnom Penh after a meeting with Hun Sen in Bangkok three weeks ago.
date of arrival has yet been set for the delegation, that will have to fit in
between other upcoming events such as the quarterly donor review meeting in late
March and Khmer New Year in mid April.
Among the United Nations' demands
is a guarantee from the government that all suspects will be arrested and that
no previous amnesties - like the one granted to former KR foreign minister Ieng
Sary in 1996 - can prevent prosecution. Phnom Penh and New York also disagree on
the number of international and Cambodian judges on the panel as well as the
Briefing the UN Secutiry Council on
Feb 29, Annan pointed out that "some of these issues are very difficult." He
did, however, hope that the upcoming talks will be "the last and decisive round