Opposition leader Sam Rainsy recently visited New York, where he is trying to bring Prime Minsiter Hun Sen to court for atrocity crimes.
“My trip to America this time is for a short period, to meet my lawyer in filing complaints against Mr. Hun Sen before the US courts, in New York, and independent courts in some democratic countries,” he said in a recent interview in Washington.
Sam Rainsy is alleging the Hun Sen was involved in the deaths of many people along the Thai border who were sent there to clear forest during the civil war. Many died of sickness or by stepping on land mines, which Sam Rainsy called a crime against humanity.
He is also implicating Hun Sen in killings of demonstrations against the 1998 national elections that put him firmly in power and in the 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy-led rally, where at least 16 people died.
Sam Rainsy said last week the complaints were not part of political brokering for his return to Cambodia, where he faces years of imprisonment on criminal charges he says are politically motivated. Local elections are set for next year and national elections for the year after.
“These complaints are to seek justice for victims,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of victims, even though they died 20 years ago, we must not forget the mistreatment and killing of Cambodian people, which are crimes against humanity.”
“If we don’t end the impunity, there will be consistent violence, nonstop killings of each other,” he said. “So I think if we manage to stop the impunity, and even bring to account perpetrators, criminals, even if they are in power or of higher rank, then we will Cambodia stop violence, especially political violence.”
Foreign courts have potential jurisdiction in such matters, he said, citing as an example the case against Chile’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who was charged with myriad atrocity crimes after he left power there.
“Such courts, they have competency to investigate criminals, particularly in the killing of people, no matter the nationalities,” he said. Neither the number of years nor the position of the alleged perpetrators matter, he said.
Sam Rainsy said that Cambodia was moving toward the global trend of freedom and uprisings for the toppling of dictators.
“Tyrannical power, even though has been used to mistreat people for many years, in the end are toppled by people,” he said. “I believe that in Cambodia, it is going to happen.”