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Judges should focus on current KR suspects: govt

Judges should focus on current KR suspects: govt

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090312_03.jpg

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SOVANN PHILONG

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.  

A SPOKESMAN for the Cambodian government on Wednesday  lashed out at foreign judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying that instead of "dragging their feet" over issues like detaining more suspects, they should think about accelerating the trials of the five suspects they already have in jail.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told the Post after speaking on a local radio station Wednesday that the tribunal should "just go ahead with the first few [trials] to show that [the court] is working".

"Because [foreign judges] have a lot of money, they can afford to drag their feet.... The longer they drag their feet, the more money they get," he said.

"Every day it's another issue. It's unacceptable.... The most important thing is just to start.... We cannot please them all the time," he added.

International co-prosecutor Robert Petit has announced that he wants to bring more former Khmer Rouge leaders to court, but Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang disagrees, citing a perceived threat to national stability. The issue is now in the hands of judges at the pretrial chamber, who have no deadline to make a decision.

Petit told the Post that he was unconcerned about the comments.

"He's allowed to have his opinion, just like any other Cambodian," he said.

Co-investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde said he did not want to be involved in any dispute between the government and the court.

"We do not want to comment on the Cambodian government official's declaration. We would not want to create a polemic over this issue," he told the Post.

Judges announced last week that the Cambodian side of the court would go bankrupt this month without more infusions of donor funds.

In the earlier radio interview, Khieu Kanharith suggested that the Cambodian government would have enough money to cover costs alone if UN or donor funds did not come through, given that they would not have to pay the large salaries of foreign judges.

But Helen Jarvis, public affairs officer at the court, said it was "not up to the government" to give more money.

 "I think most donors are aware we are out of funds, so we are hopeful."

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