Cambodia: Still No Tribunal Resolution


Dr Milton Osborne

Following the announcement by the United Nations in February that it was withdrawing from the proposed tribunal to try senior Khmer Rouge figures, the future of the trial appears to be in limbo. At the heart of the disagreement between the UN and the Cambodia government is the issue of who will sit as judges and what law would be applied in the trial. Although the government has suggested that it is ready to proceed to trial without UN participation, it appears that it is ready to continue to try and find a way to involve the international body. Like the 'Perils of Pauline', there are prospects for a number of more episodes before this issue reaches a conclusion.

As an associated issue, the government has now charged Ta Mok, the former senior Khmer Rouge military leader, with 'crimes against humanity'. This enables him to be held in detention without trial for a further three years beyond the period associated with the original charge against him of genocide, which was due to expire on 6 March.

Meanwhile, on the domestic political front FUNCINPEC continues to reel from its extremely poor showing the commune elections held at the beginning of February. Its share of the vote was 21.8 per cent, compared with some 38 per cent of the vote in the 1998 national elections. Although it is unlikely, for the moment, that Ranariddh will be replaced as the party's leader, there are some senior figures within FUNCINPEC who are now ready to question his suitability and commitment. King Sihanouk, too, is reported to be unhappy with the result, since it indicates a slippage of support for the party he founded and which previously benefited from its royal associations.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is reported to be looking forward eagerly to Cambodia assuming the chairmanship of ASEAN in July. He sees this as an opportunity to enhance the country's less than shining image. As outspoken United States ambassador Kent Wiedemann has been quoted as saying about current Cambodian politics, 'it is nothing short of the politically powerful stealing the country's resources - at the expense of the people and at the expense of the donors - for their own self-aggrandisement’.

WATCHPOINT: The possibility of a continuing decline in FUNCINPEC's fortunes.


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