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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
Cambodia 'may compromise' on genocide trial
Memorial made of human skulls
Nobody has ever appeared in court over the killings
Cambodia has said it is willing to compromise with the United Nations in order to put leaders of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" regime on trial for genocide.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen
Hun Sen was a junior Khmer Rouge commander
Plans for a joint tribunal broke down in February after UN officials said they were concerned the hearings would not meet international standards of justice.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who until now has refused to change his country's law to satisfy the UN, on Tuesday said the government would make amendments if necessary.

"For a compromise to try the genocidal leaders, if we have to amend the law we will do it," Hun Sen told reporters.

An estimated 1.7 million people died under the 1976-79 Marxist regime. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, but many former top leaders are still alive.

Legal row

Some Khmer Rouge leaders were offered a partial amnesty after joining the government in the 1990s, ending decades of civil war in Cambodia.

Critics of Hun Sen say he has dragged his feet on setting up a tribunal for fear of too many questions about the role of senior members of the government in the genocide.

He himself was a former Khmer Rouge member, though he has not been linked with any crime.

Hun Sen has said he is afraid of stirring up unrest but has insisted he is committed to setting up a tribunal. He has said he will seek help from other countries if the UN does not come to an agreement with the Cambodia.

The sticking point with the UN has been over whether international or Cambodian law would be used in the tribunal. Hun Sen until now has always insisted on Cambodian law, refusing to make any amendments.

The shift in stance has been welcomed by Youk Chang, the director of the Documentation Centre for Cambodia, an independent group researching the Khmer Rouge regime.

He says it is the result of direct pressure from a conference of international donors two weeks ago.

The dontors criticised the UN's withdrawal from the joint tribunal, as well as Cambodia's failure to carry judicial reforms. And they warned that future aid could be reduced unless changes were made.

See also:

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02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
14 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
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