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In Pailin, Judges Find Questions of Trust

Khmer Rouge tribunal judges met for the first time with former rebels in the remote mountains of the northwest Monday, in an effort to curb fears of further arrests of low- and mid-level cadre.

In a three-hour, closed-door meeting in Pailin, the judges and former Khmer Rouge discussed the mandate of the tribunal, which is to prosecute only top leaders of the regime.

Pailin authorities, police, and military officials met with judges and about 150 former Khmer Rouge.

“There were many questions,” said Pailin Deputy Governor Keut Sothea, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, of the meeting. “The questions were meant to clear any doubt. Other participants said they were given enough explanations to trust” the judges.

Tribunal investigating judge You Bunleng said the meetings were aimed to allay fears of Pailin residents who live among former Khmer Rouge. Pailin was a Khmer Rouge stronghold, and many former supporters of the regime still live in the area.

Two top leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who were both arrested in late 2007 and charged with atrocity crimes, lived in Pailin.

“We know that the ECCC can proceed because of a clear understanding and cooperation from local authorities,” You Bunleng said, referring to the tribunal by its official name, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. “And the people have to understand too.”

Pailin Governor Y Chhean, who is close to former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, told reporters in Pailin he was cooperating with tribunal officials.

Some former cadre in the area, however, expressed concern about the fate of their former leaders, all of whom await trials while detained at a tribunal center in Phnom Penh.