Cambodian Ruling Party's Squabbles

Associated Press
April 25, 2000

Phnom Penh - Squabbles among officials in Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party have hampered negotiations for United Nations-backed trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide, the leader of the National Assembly said Tuesday.

Problems within the powerful Cambodian People's Party began last week when Hun Sen announced he supported an American-suggested solution to the last obstacle blocking the proposed tribunal, Prince Norodom Ranariddh told reporters.

The proposal - submitted to Hun Sen by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, on the sidelines of a developing-nations summit in Havana, Cuba - attempts to deal with the sensitive issue of indictments. "The prime minister believed that he could accept John Kerry's formula, but after returning home he faced some problems within the CPP," the prince said.

A top adviser to Hun Sen denied the statement by Ranariddh, whose royalist FUNCINPEC party is the junior partner in Cambodia's coalition government. "Maybe Prince Ranariddh thinks he is the president of the Cambodian People's Party," Om Yentieng said. "If he has a comment like this, I think he is wrong."

Ruling party members have acknowledged that some party officials are nervous about a tribunal, which would judge Khmer Rouge leaders for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during their reign of terror in the late 1970s.

Several senior CPP officials - including Hun Sen himself - were Khmer Rouge during the radical communists' brutal rule. Historians say there is no known evidence linking Hun Sen to Khmer Rouge atrocities, but the fate of older ruling party members remains unclear.

The chief Cambodian negotiator on the tribunal, Sok An, met ruling party lawmakers last week to discuss the U.S. proposal, which would let a U.N.-appointed prosecutor issue an independent indictment unless Cambodian and foreign judges together strike it down.

Cambodia has demanded that indictments be issued jointly by co-prosecutors - one Cambodian, one foreign - but the United Nations wants to ensure that Cambodia does not wield veto power over who will face trial.

More Information on Cambodia