Justice, Not Vengeance

Newsweek International, August 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Justice, Not Vengeance


An avid golfer, Hun Sen prides himself on always knowing the right club to use at the right time. Recently he has tempered his opposition to trials of top Khmer Rouge leaders. But he continues to berate the United Nations for demanding that any tribunal have international input. Drinking green tea and chain-smoking cigarettes, the Cambodian prime minister recently spoke with NEWSWEEK's Brook Larmer and Joe Cochrane at his private residence in Phnom Penh. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Not long ago, you advised Cambodians to "dig a hole and bury the past." Has your viewpoint changed?

HUN SEN: Digging a hole and burying the past does not mean not finding justice for the Cambodian people. I don't want Cambodians to practice revenge outside of the legal framework. At an earlier stage, I worried that tribunals would lead to war. The Khmer Rouge was like a fire that was not extinguished. I didn't want to throw oil on it. But this was before the surrender of [top Khmer Rouge commanders] Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in 1998.

Is Cambodia ready to have both justice and peace?

We have to have both. If we're not careful with the trial, there could be panic among the people. This would lead to war. And how many people could be killed? But if we only have peace without justice, that's not enough either.

We need both legs, not just one. Those people who pretend to be teachers of Cambodia only take one leg into consideration. Before 1991 all they wanted was peace, no justice. Now they want the opposite.

Will the United Nations be involved in the tribunal? …

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