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Khmer Rouge Trial To Be Delayed

August 3, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Lawmakers from Cambodia’s top two political parties agreed Tuesday on legislation that will allow a three-year delay of a genocide tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders.

Senior legislators from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party and junior coalition partner FUNCINPEC said after a meeting that both sides support a draft law that will avoid a Sept. 9 deadline on a trial for jailed guerrilla chief Ta Mok.

Approval of the bill is almost assured as the two parties control all but 15 seats in the 122-seat assembly. A simple majority is needed for passage.

``The objective of the draft law is to seek justice for all victims of the genocide regime,″ FUNCINPEC member Monh Saphan said of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge government, when an estimated 1.7 million people died of starvation, overwork, disease or systematic executions.

Opposition politicians and human rights groups have bitterly opposed the measure, fearing the law could be used to lock up Hun Sen’s political opponents without trial.

Ta Mok, one of two Khmer Rouge arrested for their role in the genocide, was captured by the Cambodian army on March 6 and charged three days later under legislation that outlawed the guerrilla group.

The charge was seen as a holding tactic while Cambodia and the United Nations negotiated formation of a genocide tribunal.

But the talks have proceeded slowly, and under Cambodian law a suspect must face trial within six months of being charged.

Hun Sen called Saturday for the legislature to support an amendment proposed by his party that would allow a pretrial detention period of up to five years if a suspect is charged with genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

FUNCINPEC, led by assembly speaker Prince Norodom Ranariddh, initially balked, but then submitted a counterproposal Tuesday: an entirely new law that shortens the deadline for holding a trial to three years.

Ruling party lawmakers approved the bill, which Monh Saphan said should reach the full assembly next week.

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