Hands up! The National Assembly greenlights the Khmer Rouge tribunal law on Jan 2.
tunned silence filled the National Assembly chamber on the morning of Jan 2 after
legislators unanimously passed 47 of 48 articles of the Khmer Rouge tribunal law
without a whisper of debate. The first article of the draft law had occupied the
Assembly for the entirety of the first day of debate on the law on Dec 29.
After years of often-bitter wrangling with the UN to reach agreement on a mixed international
tribunal of former Khmer Rouge leaders, the law authorizing the tribunal's creation
was welcomed with relieved smiles and bursts of nervous laughter among all parties
An obviously-delighted Minister of the Council of Ministers Sok An, who finalized
the draft law with UN Undersecretary-General Hans Corell in July 2000, expressed
his gratitude to legislators for the law's speedy approval, noting that it was the
first time in the Assembly's history that a law had been approved unanimously.
National Assembly First Deputy Heng Samrin (CPP) mixed his praise for the law's passage
with assurances to former Khmer Rouge that only the top leadership would be targeted
by the tribunal.
"Please don't worry, we will only [prosecute] the leaders and the people who
were responsible for the [Khmer Rouge] regime," he said.
CPP MP Chour Lieng Hout described the law's passage as a victory for Cambodian sovereignty
and national pride.
"There have been opinions expressed by some Khmers that Khmers can't be trusted
and Cambodia required an international court," Hout said. "Samdech Hun
Sen fought for a Khmer court and Khmer brains."
Sam Rainsy expressed resignation about the law's passage, saying his party had no
capacity to change flawed aspects of the law and that delays were not in the public
"I am not 100% satisfied with the provisions of the law... but we don't want
to allow the former senior Khmer Rouge and witnesses to die of natural causes before
they can face trial," he said. "I remain concerned that the tribunal's
Cambodian judges will be appointed by the Supreme Council of Magistracy [which] the