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‘Be Careful’ of War, Hun Sen Warns Tribunal

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal would not be able to indict more suspects than it already has, repeating his warnings that further indictments could lead to instability and, potentially, war.

“I prefer the failure of the tribunal than to let the country fall into war,” he said, reiterating concerns that further indictments could lead to instability. “You must consider this. If there is no peace, but it turns to war, how many people will die? It will not be the court eradicating the war. But be careful of the court making war.”

His public comments follow the September decision of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the court to allow further indictments and as investigating judges pursue the potential of more charges.

The court is currently holding five members of the Khmer Rouge, including four senior-most leaders, but prosecutors have forwarded the names of five more cadre for investigation. The first trial, of the relatively low-ranking Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, concluded last week, with a verdict expected early in 2010.

Trials for the five already arrested are enough, Hun Sen said Thursday, speaking at a ceremony for World Disability Day in Phnom Penh.

“Soon the verdict of the [Duch] case will be declared, and the rest of the people in Case 002 will begin,” he said.

“Indeed, the number of persons who must be tried exceeded [expectations],”if one counts the deaths of Pol Pot, Ta Mok and Son Sen, he said.

In fact, according to an agreement between Cambodia and the UN, the total number of suspects tried can reach as high as 10.

Lars Olsen, the UN’s legal officer at the court, confirmed that Case 003, is currently in the office of the investigating judges. The case will be decided on its legal merits, he said.

“The court operates independently of the executive branch and anyone else,” he said. “We are the court. We follow the law. So we will make our decision according to the law.”