United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has indicated he is ready to restart
talks with the Cambodian government on a trial for former Khmer Rouge leaders, provided
the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council vote for an appropriate mandate.
"If such a mandate were given, the Secretary-General would be prepared to engage
in further talks with the government in order to fulfill the mandate," stated
a UN press release issued in Phnom Penh August 22.
Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters the same day that the door was open to restart
talks on a possible trial, but said it was up to all concerned parties, not just
Cambodia, to find a way forward.
"A good beginning for the process [of setting up a trial] has been achieved
but there is a need for more effort, not only from Cambodia but also from the UN
secretary-general and the other countries of the world involved in this issue,"
said Hun Sen.
But despite the apparent progress, differences between the UN and the Cambodian side
remain. One observer said the government was currently in "wait and see"
While Hun Sen called for other countries to become involved, the August 22 statement
from Kofi Annan stressed the need for Cambodia to do its part.
"Cambodia has the responsibility for the trial while the international community
... can help, provided the government demonstrates its preparedness to ensure the
observance of international standards of justice," he said.
Minister of Cabinet Sok An, the government's head tribunal negotiator, called for
clarification of Annan's letter, saying that "we should be clear about the issues"
the UN had raised.
Further worries surround any attempt to get a Security Council resolution on the
issue. Veteran political observer Lao Mong Hay told the Post August 27, that any
such resolution to establish a Khmer Rouge trial would be vetoed. He said China would
prove the obstacle preventing the resolution getting through the Security Council.
"I estimate there's a 100 percent chance that China would use its right to veto,"
Mong Hay said.
That view was echoed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, who told reporters
Kofi Annan should be aware that should what he termed "a certain country"
use its veto, there would be no way for negotiations to resume.
China provided financial and military assistance to the KR regime and has previously
threatened to prevent any SC resolution on a trial. However that still leaves open
the possibility that the resolution could be approved by the UN's General Assembly,
which China would be unable to veto. The General Assembly has given its mandate for
a tribunal five times in the past five years.