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Ambassador: Tribunal Will Bring 'Enough,' Not Full Justice

Trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders are unlikely to bring full justice to the victims of the brutal regime, but it might bring enough, US ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli said Saturday.

Speaking to a group of Cambodian-Americans in Atlanta, Ga., the ambassador, who is on a US visit, said the trials by special tribunal courts will bring "real" justice, even if they don't bring "full" justice.

"We will have over next year or two real justice," he said. "Not enough, you never get enough justice in this world, I guess, but we'll have at least, I would guess, somewhere around a dozen people being brought up on charges of genocide."

Though hundreds of people were culpable in the deaths of nearly 2 million people in the regime, a dozen indictments would bring some justice, he said.

A dozen "is not a great deal," he said. "There were hundreds of people who were guilty of genocide, but, frankly, you have to draw the line somewhere. You can't have the trial last for 20 years or 30 years, you can't spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the trial, but you have to find at least the most responsible for genocide and bring them to trial, and I think we are now on the way to doing that."

A Cambodian-American who suffered under the Khmer Rouge and joined the open forum Saturday told VOA Khmer the ambassador's words had stirred in him support for the tribunal, which, after a year of delays, moved forward last month with suspects named for investigation and the indictment of Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch.

"It's a first step to let the world know, especially human rights defenders and especially people victimized by the Khmer Rouge, to know that justice happens, and it's found for them," the guest said.

Another Cambodian-American who asked not to be named expressed concern that obstacles and foreign pressures would not allow the trial to take place.

"I believe that there will be [influence] from outside to strongly pressure the Cambodian government and prevent the trial from happening," he said, without elaborating.

Aside from the trials, border issues remained a concern, Mussomeli said. But border encroachment likely will not happen after legitimate border demarcation.

"What is important is to have a clearly defined border, because you don't want one kilometer to become 10 kilometers or 100 kilometers 20 years, 30 years, 40 years from now," he said. "It's important to always find compromises and always, always, especially if you are the less-populated and less-politically and militarily strong country, find a legal, sensible, legitimate border."

The ambassador spoke to allay concerns from those present that Thailand, with 65 million people, and Vietnam, with 85 million, would naturally keep encroaching on Cambodian territory.

Ket Sakhorn, a Cambodian-American who joined the forum with Mussomeli said encroachment was hard to avoid because the border has not been clear since French colonialism.

"To define it properly, we can negotiate, like Preah Vihear temple, because we have proper documentation in 1962 from [international courts]," Ket Sakhorn said. "So even if Thailand wishes to take it, they cannot, because we have clear documentation."