Cambodia: Zero Sum Game


Dr Milton Osborne

Despite having been a central issue in Cambodian's domestic and international politics for years, the issue of what kind of trial might take place which would bring former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice remains unresolved. In particular, the key elements of who would act as prosecutor and the balance of judges on any tribunal (a majority of Cambodians or of international judges) remain unresolved.

An agreement between Prime Minister Hun Sen and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, apparently struck in Bangkok in February appears, in retrospect, to have been no more than an indication that neither the Cambodian government nor the UN at this stage are prepared to break off negotiations on the issue. At the time of writing, a team of UN legal experts is in Phnom Penh pursuing it. They can scarcely have been encouraged by Hun Sen's comment, made earlier this month, that Cambodia could not trust the UN in this matter.

Meanwhile, old scandals and associated political manoeuvrings continue. The Cambodian Mine Action Centre remains an issue of controversy as foreign experts clash with local CMAC officials. And the claim that supporters of Sam Rainsy were behind the rocket attack that occurred in Siemreap in October 1998, and which it is said was directed against Hun Sen, has been resurrected with copies of faxes of dubious authenticity being produced to bolster this allegation. Predictably, Rainsy has denied the claim and denounced the faxes as forgeries.

Meanwhile, there are some signs that Sam Rainsy's party is struggling to maintain its unity. To the extent that this is the case, it reflects the fact that in political culture which views politics as a zero-sum game there is little role for an opposition organisation, however laudable its aims.

For the moment, and for the foreseeable future, Hun Sen reigns supreme politically.

WATCHPOINT: How will this type of stability influence foreign, including commercial perceptions?


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