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Khmer Rouge Tribunal Must Ensure Legacy, Observer Says

Long Panhavuth, a monitor for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, talks on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, May 02, 2013.

WASHINGTON DC - The Khmer Rouge tribunal must have a transparent, complete strategy for wrapping up when the time comes, a court monitor says, or it risks losing some of its achievements for victims of the regime.

Long Panhavuth, a program officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, told “Hello VOA” Thursday that the court still has a chance to give hope to victims who crave justice.

The UN-backed tribunal is facing increased financial pressure and is struggling with international support, even as it undertakes a trial of the last two leaders in custody.

“If the court has a proper completion strategy, it would help a lot,” Long Panhavuth said. “First, it helps the victims have real hope, regarding what the court can do and what the court cannot do. Second, it helps to get honesty, rather than the hiding of issues. This is important.”

Khmer Rouge Tribunal Must Ensure Legacy, Observer Says
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The tribunal has not been good at protecting witnesses and victims, nor with providing enough information about its processes, he said. Meanwhile, financial strains, a slow pace, apparent political interference and the lack of progress on two more cases are all dogging the court, he said.

“That’s why donors and victims and some civil society groups seem not to be impressed anymore over the Khmer Rouge tribunal process,” he said. “This is a challenge. But the critical challenge is that up until today, we’ve seen tribunal leaders and some donors still hesitating to publicly speak out about what the tribunal can do and what it cannot do.”

That’s a reflection of their concerns, that the court will somehow fail or anger victims of the regime, he said. “But this is a lack of transparency in the process.”’

Tribunal officials must now find ways to explain the future of the court, especially after the current trial is completed, he said. “If they don’t say it now, it will affect what the court and the UN and Cambodia have achieved.”