Khmernews

Sihanouk waits in vain fro televised discussion

Posted by khmernews on September 18, 2007

By Development Weekly

Despite clear indications that his invitation had been declined, former King Sihanouk nonetheless waited for United Nations (UN) staff of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) at the Royal Palace on September 7. The staff had been invited to a televised discussion to clarify the nature of Sihanouk’s links to the Khmer Rouge regime, a discussion seemingly scuppered by the ECCC officials’ absence, newspapers reported September 10.
A September 5 letter from Michelle Lee, deputy director of the administration office of the ECCC, had already warned that United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (UNAKRT) spokesman Peter Foster, who was invited, would be unable to attend, as he “is not empowered to exercise jurisdictional duties, and consequently not authorized to accept the invitation of His Majesty the King-Father, ” reported Rasmei Kampuchea.

In the same statement, Lee backtracked on comments made by Foster to the Cambodia Daily, in which he said that the ECCC could call Sihanouk as a witness.

“I can assure you that Mr. Foster did not have the intention of attacking the honor of His Majesty the King-Father,” she wrote in the letter.

In response to the letter, Sihanouk claimed that he had said everything he wished to say as a “witness” in a recent handwritten statement to the public. The former monarch added that he has nothing more to say to “these judges.”

In the inflammatory rhetoric of his statement, Sihanouk claimed the United States and unspecified allies bear greater responsibility for the victory of the Khmer Rouge, as the US-backed coup d’Etat in 1970 “opened the way,” for the KR to gain power-and therefore, the former monarch claimed, these nations should be on trial, not himself.

Despite Michelle Lee’s letter, Sihanouk had camera teams from the state-run TVK television station on standby and had prepared a meeting hall for the planned discussion. The ECCC officials were a predictable no-show, reported the Cambodia Daily.

“His Majesty the King Father has opened these golden gates with sincerity and honorability for the ECCC UN at show up, but they have chosen to close the door,” Royal Cabinet member Oum Daravuth told the English-language daily.

“Every one was aware no one was coming,” Foster told the same newspaper. The former King’s links to the Khmer Rouge were questioned in mid-August by Suon Sereyratha, director of the little-known Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity (CACJE).

Sihanouk issued a French-language communiqué August 30, inviting Foster and other ECCC officials to the Royal Palace to discuss the “Khmer Rouge and Norodom Sihanouk issue”, which he claimed would negate any need for him to appear at the tribunal.

-Extracted from Development Weekly, #160, September 17-23, 2007.

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