Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More suspects risks war: PM

More suspects risks war: PM

More suspects risks war: PM

090401_02.jpg
090401_02.jpg

Hun Sen warns against expanding the caseload at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying doing so could spark unrest.

Photo by:
Thet Sambath

Former Khmer Rouge military commander and possible tribunal defendant Meas Muth speaking at his house last week. 

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that Cambodia would be plunged back into civil unrest if the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal sought to prosecute more suspects, saying that he would rather see the court fail than the Kingdom return to war.

"I would prefer to see this court fail than for war to come back to Cambodia," he said at the opening of a road named after him in Sihanoukville.

"That is my absolute position ... just focus on these few people," Hun Sen added. "If they try another 20 people and war erupts, who will take responsibility?

"I would pray for this court to run out of money and for the foreign judges and prosecutors to walk out. That would allow for Cambodia to finish the trial by itself."

So far five former regime leaders have been detained by the tribunal, with Tuol Sleng prison commandant Kaing Guek Eav the only one facing trial.

But foreign co-prosecutor Robert Petit is pushing for at least six more Khmer Rouge cadreS to be investigated - a move that has been opposed by his Cambodian counterpart Chea Leang who, like Hun Sen, says expanding the scope of the trials could destabilise the country.

Similar fears have been expressed in former Khmer Rouge areas, where low-level cadres say they worry that the arrests could reach further down the regime's hierarchy.

Meas Muth, an ex-Khmer Rouge military commander who is widely considered to be one of those targeted by Petit, said the threat of future arrests has sent ripples of anger through the ranks of former cadres.

"There will be problems and disorder in the former Khmer Rouge areas" if more arrests occur, he said last week from his home in Samlot.

"I think this trial is just revenge by the American government because they lost the war in Cambodia. So they want revenge on the Khmer Rouge through this court," he added.

But international observers, including the London-based human rights group Amnesty International, say that it is not enough to prosecute only five Khmer Rouge leaders when the regime caused so much devastation.

The group in a statement released last week "urged the court conducting the trial to increase its caseload".

"The Extraordinary Chambers must urgently expand its prosecution strategy to investigate and prosecute more cases before it is too late," said Amnesty's Cambodia researcher Brittis Edman.

Others doubted that an expanded caseload would spark unrest, saying that the Cambodian people would resist any slide into chaos.

"We have all struggled to see this tribunal through and we are waiting to get results," said genocide researcher Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.

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