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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Cambodia PM accuses other countries of stirring unrest

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia’s prime minister accused foreign judges and prosecutors at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal of seeking to arrest new suspects as part of a plot by foreign governments to incite unrest.

Hun Sen’s accusation was the latest in a series he has launched against the tribunal and its ruling last week to allow foreign prosecutors to pursue more suspects.

On Monday, Hun Sen said such action could lead to civil war. He has repeatedly spoken out against expanding the list of defendants beyond the one currently on trial — Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, — and four others in custody.

He elaborated Wednesday, saying foreign governments want war in Cambodia, a former French colony that was later wracked by decades of civil war.

“I know that some foreign judges and prosecutors have received orders from their governments to create problems here,” Hun Sen said while inaugurating a Buddhist pagoda south of the capital. “There is no doubt that they have received advice from their government to do so.”

Hun Sen did not name specific countries. The tribunal includes 12 foreign judges and two foreign prosecutors from countries including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Zambia.

“What Cambodia needs is peace,” Hun Sen added. “If Cambodia has peace, they (foreign governments) are not quite happy with us — but if Cambodia has war, they are happy because then we’ll be easy to occupy.”

A tribunal spokesman, Lars Olsen, said Hun Sen’s comments were being verified before a comment could be issued.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of trying to limit the tribunal’s scope to prevent his political allies from being indicted. Hun Sen once served as a Khmer Rouge officer and many of his main allies are also former members of the group.

On Tuesday, the tribunal’s acting international co-prosecutor, William Smith of Australia, formally recommended that five more suspects be investigated for possible crimes against humanity and other offences.

The tribunal’s Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed further indictments, but the tribunal ruled last week that his international counterpart could seek them. The tribunal, created last year under an agreement reached in 2003 between Cambodia and the United Nations, employs joint teams of Cambodian and international court personnel.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the ultra-communist group’s radical policies while in power in 1975-79.

The Khmer Rouge took control after a bitter 1970-75 civil war, and after being ousted from power in 1979, fought an insurgency from the jungles until 1999.

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