Cambodia: Hastening Slowly

2001

Dr Milton Osborne

The government is moving slowly towards the establishment of a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge figures – following Senate approval in late July to change that part of the legislation, for the tribunal, that provides for the death penalty (under the Cambodian Constitution the death penalty is prohibited). However, before the tribunal can be established it must have approval from the Constitutional Council – not yet granted according to information currently available – and only then will discussions begin again with the United Nations to prepare a memorandum of understanding dealing with the detail of the tribunal's composition and procedures.

Prominent former Khmer Rouge leaders remain at large and there are suggestions that Hun Sen's government would not be unhappy if men such as Khieu Samphan did not, eventually, come before the tribunal. For the government there has always been the problem of where a search for those who should be prosecuted will end. Both the civil and military administrations have many former Khmer Rouge figures in senior positions, such as, for instance, Sou Met, a former KR divisional commander now holding a senior post in Battambang, or Ke Pauk, a former KR central committee member, who also holds a senior military post in the northwest.

The process of enrolling voters for the commune council elections due to take place in February 2002 has begun, with familiar allegations of intimidation being raised by candidates linked to the Sam Rainsy Party. Enrollment procedures should be completed by 5 October.

Also it is important to note that for a second year in a row Cambodia has been hit by higher than usual flooding, with resultant loss of life. As of mid-September 150,000 persons had been forced from their homes.

WATCHPOINT: Postscript: Cambodian public reactions to the events of 11 September have been minimal. Saudi Arabia has been sending substantial funds and some missionaries to the Islamic Cham community, to educate them as to what ‘real’ Islam is all about. But with its continuing concern to maintain United States aid, the Cambodian government is likely to take a generally supportive view of action against Middle Eastern terrorists.'

 

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