Phnom Penh Post
PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday lashed out at the decision by the Khmer Rouge tribunal to pave the way for investigations of more regime figures, warning that doing so risks sparking civil unrest that could claim hundreds of thousands of lives. "If you want a tribunal, but you don't want to consider peace and reconciliation and war breaks out again, killing 200,000 or 300,000 people, who will be responsible?" asked Hun Sen, speaking at a forum on census results at Chaktomuk Theatre. The war crimes court's Pre-Trial Chamber in a ruling announced last week opened the door to investigations of suspects beyond the five regime leaders currently in custody. The decision ended a nine-month dispute between the now-resigned international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, who wished to file additional submissions for investigations, and the national co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, who cited concerns about national stability in arguing against the filings. Hun Sen described Petit's push for more investigations as being inconsistent with the UN's past stance towards the Khmer Rouge, who represented Cambodia at the UN General Assembly in the 1980s. "Before, they all supported the Khmer Rouge at the UN, but now when we try the detained Khmer Rouge leaders they say it is not enough," he said. He went on to defend his policy - carried out after the Khmer Rouge fell from power - of encouraging high-level cadres to defect to the government, adding that he did not look kindly on threats to a peace he described as hard-earned."Finally, I have got peace, so I will not let someone destroy it," he said. "The people and the nation will not be destroyed by someone trying to lead the country into instability, whether it is a Cambodian or a foreigner."During a speech in March, Hun Sen made similar claims, saying he would rather see the tribunal fail than more suspects be tried and the Kingdom descend into chaos.Interference concernsThough Hun Sen emphasised that he was "not pressuring the court", the New York-based group Human Rights Watch said the premier's remarks amounted to another in a series of attempts to exert influence over the tribunal. "For Hun Sen to continually insist that the Khmer Rouge tribunal limit the number of people it prosecutes shows once again the Cambodian government's efforts to manipulate what is supposed to be an independent judicial process," said the group's Asia director, Brad Adams."It is specious to claim that war will return to Cambodia if a few more suspects are prosecuted," he said. "Judicial decisions should be based on evidence, not political considerations," Adams added. The coordinator of the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), Knut Rosandhaug, said Monday the court would not be influenced by the executive branch."It is a clearly established international standard that courts do not seek approval or advice on their work from the executive branch," Knut Rosandhaug said. "I expect that the [tribunal] will comply with this internationally recognised standard and make its decisions independently." Acting international co-prosecutor William Smith - Petit resigned before the ruling was made - declined to comment. Chea Leang could not be reached for comment. Hun Sen on Monday also took aim at genocide researcher Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), who was quoted Monday in the daily newspaper Kampuchea Thmey as saying that the tribunal should explain to the prime minister its reasoning for pushing for more prosecutions. "The [tribunal] should show their reasons for wanting to prosecute further Khmer Rouge suspects to Prime Minister Hun Sen, as previously he showed the stance of not wanting to prosecute more suspects because of fears of social instability," Youk Chhang was quoted as saying. Responding to those comments, Hun Sen said: "I want to be clear on this point. I am not pressuring the court. Youk Chhang should not interfere on this issue anymore."Youk Chhang wrote in an email Monday that he only told Kampuchea Thmey that the court "should explain why they want to prosecute more people". He also said he had sent a letter to the prime minister to clarify his position.