Cambodia: Plus ša change . . . ?

2001

Dr Milton Osborne

Final approval has still not been given for the entry into force of a law mandating the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Leaving aside some delphic comments by Prime Minister Hun Sen relating to Ieng Sary's amnestied status, delay for the moment appears to centre on the issue of whether or not there should be specific reference in the law prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty. King Sihanouk had been expected to sign the law into force before he departed for medical treatment in China on 21 February, but he did not do so.

Meanwhile, and to the evident surprise of some of his supporters, Sam Rainsy in the course of an American visit has called on the United States Government not to provide finance to assist the tribunal's operations once the law is finally brought into being. Why Sam Rainsy spoke as he did is unclear, and there were no immediate protests from Cambodia’s neighbours. The Thais, after all, are on good terms with the Chinese and Vietnam is in no position to criticise the PRC.

Otherwise, developments over the past month had kept to familiar patterns. Issues relating to illegal logging continue to be raised by Global Witness with Hun Sen drawing back from his threat to expel this NGO. The United Nations for Human Rights' Special Representative, Peter Leuprecht, has spoken of his concern over Cambodia's 'enormous' human rights problems. And public health and social problems associated with AIDS continue to multiply. It is estimated that there are already 30,000 AIDS orphans in the country with an expectation that this number will more than quadruple over the next four years.

On a more positive note, a measure of euphoria continues to exist in government circles following the visit of the Chinese Defence Minister in February and his announcement of military aid to a value of US$2.5 million. The visit and the promised aid has put to rest any lingering sense of difficulties in relations between the two countries.

WATCHPOINT: : The KR Tribunal - will it ever come into being?

 

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