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The UN Appointed Michelle Lee as the Khmer Rouge Trial Coordinator

Cambodia welcomes the recent U.N. appointment of Michelle Lee as the international deputy director of the Office of Administration that will serve the trial and pre-trial chambers, the co-investigating judges, and the prosecutor's office of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for the Khmer Rouge trial coordinator.

The Khmer Rouge were accused of killing nearly two millions Cambodians during its genocidal regime from 1975-1979.

The United Nations announced Thursday that Michelle Lee of China will coordinate U.N. assistance to the tribunal to put aging Khmer Rouge leaders on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Previously, Ms. Lee was chief of the administrative division at the U.N.'s regional Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok from February 2001 to July 2003.

This appointment raises questions whether or not it will bring justice and impartial trial.

Ms. Lee joined the U.N. in 1974 and most recently has been in charge of administrative support services for the U.N. genocide tribunal for Rwanda since July 2003.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters Monday in Phnom Penh that he supports any actions by the UN that would move the Khmer Rouge tribunal forward. He said the person's race is not important.

However, because of China's support of the Khmer Rouge when they were in power from April 1975 to January 1979, the appointment of Michelle Lee brought reactions from a number of people.

The Center of Documentation of Cambodia's Executive President, Mr. Youk Chhang questions the UN's decision to appoint a Chinese woman. He said many Cambodians will have doubts on Ms. Lee's ability because she is Chinese and China used to support the Khmer Rouge.

Licadho's President, Ms. Pung Chhiv Kek, said that the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 18 NGO members Human Rights organization wrote a letter to Mr. Kofi Annan in 2004 asking him to choose anyone who has experience with genocide, and not to choose anyone from a country with ties to the Khmer Rouge. However the LICADHO president said she still trusts Mr. Kofi Annan for his insight.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party member of parliament, Mr. Son Chhay, said that the Khmer Rouge trial is a long term procedure, and that people should not react too soon to the appointment.

It is not clear when the Khmer Rouge trial will begin. Cambodia which has earlier pledged US $ 13.3 million toward the trial, now said it could only afford to pay $1.3 million. The whole trial is expected to last for three years and cost $56.3 million.