Sam Rainsy pushes for UN trials of the Khmer Rouge at a demonstration
in Phnom Penh in 1999.
am Rainsy Party members are expressing concern and confusion over opposition leader
Sam Rainsy's March 6 appeal to the US government to refuse to fund a future Khmer
Rainsy made the appeal in a speech to the US Council on Foreign Relations, saying
that the ruling CPP had defacto control of he planned "Mixed Tribunal"
that effectively nullified the application of international standards of justice.
Rainsy asked that the US instead redirect funding earmarked for the KR tribunal to
preparations for the long delayed commune elections scheduled for 2002 and the 2003
"We believe that proper justice can be rendered to the Cambodian people only
when democracy is established in Cambodia," Rainsy told the Post in an email
response to his Washington speech. "To effectively help the Cambodian people
in their search for justice, priority should be given instead to the organization
of the commune elections in 2001 and the general elections in 2003."
In Phnom Penh, Rainsy's assertions have prompted a bout of collective head-scratching
among SRP legislators, who along with Rainsy unanimously voted in support of the
KR draft law with no debate on Jan 2.
Legislators contacted by the Post claim to have been taken by surprise by Rainsy's
speech, insisting that they had not been consulted prior to Rainsy's announced change
in SRP policy regarding the KR tribunal.
"I didn't know about Sam Rainsy's request that the US not fund the KR tribunal
and his intention to delay the KR tribunal until after the two elections," said
SRP MP Sam Sundoeun.
But Sundoeun justified the move in light of delays that have beset the tribunal's
formation since Jan 2.
"...the whole KR tribunal law [process] ...is like a children's game,"
he said. "The legislative branch worked hard to pass the draft law...but now
it is stuck in the government's hands."
SRP legislator Sun Kim Hun expressed concern about Rainsy's advocation of a two year
delay in the tribunal's formation, saying the advanced age and reputed ill-health
of KR suspects such as former military chief Ta Mok required the tribunal to be established
as quickly as possible.
"I don't want to delay the KR tribunal...I want to see the tribunal set up as
soon as possible because we don't want to see Khmer Rouge die before trial,"
The apparent policy gap between Rainsy and his party was attributed by SRP legislator
Son Chhay to Rainsy's busy schedule.
"I never heard about [the policy change] directly from Sam Rainsy," Chhay
said. "[But] we know that Sam Rainsy is busy so maybe he had no time to talk
to us about this."
Rainsy himself dismissed suggestions that his Washington appeal contradicted his
Jan 2 vote supporting the draft tribunal law.
"We voted in favor of the Khmer Rouge trial law because voting against it would
have given our opponents an argument for accusing us of opposing a Khmer Rouge trial,"
When asked about possible divisions in his party from his unexpected policy change,
however, Rainsy was more ambiguous.
"We are sharing information and co-ordinating our position," Rainsy responded
by email from the US.