Is China still running interference for the Khmer Rouge?

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP The United Nations-sponsored international tribunal charged with bringing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge to justice looks set to collapse, following the latest round of dithering by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Despite near universal support for the tribunal in Cambodia and in the international community, Hun Sen has trotted out the ...

603983_022107_hunsen2.jpg
603983_022107_hunsen2.jpg

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP

The United Nations-sponsored international tribunal charged with bringing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge to justice looks set to collapse, following the latest round of dithering by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Despite near universal support for the tribunal in Cambodia and in the international community, Hun Sen has trotted out the old red herring that has doomed so many similar efforts: concern over the tribunal's threat to national sovereignty.

Exactly whom is Hun Sen protecting? Himself? He was, after all, a mid-level soldier for the regime. But he ultimately defected. Old Khmer Rouge cronies? Quite possibly, given that Sen's ruling party, the CPP, is a notorious haven for former members of the Pol Pot regime. Der Spiegel offers another plausible explanation: 

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP

The United Nations-sponsored international tribunal charged with bringing the remnants of the Khmer Rouge to justice looks set to collapse, following the latest round of dithering by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Despite near universal support for the tribunal in Cambodia and in the international community, Hun Sen has trotted out the old red herring that has doomed so many similar efforts: concern over the tribunal’s threat to national sovereignty.

Exactly whom is Hun Sen protecting? Himself? He was, after all, a mid-level soldier for the regime. But he ultimately defected. Old Khmer Rouge cronies? Quite possibly, given that Sen’s ruling party, the CPP, is a notorious haven for former members of the Pol Pot regime. Der Spiegel offers another plausible explanation: 

[Hun Sen’s] delay tactics may not just be a function of his powerful friends. The Khmer Rouge had support from China, and current Chinese leaders have made it clear to their tiny neighbor that Beijing’s role in the 1970s bloodbath shouldn’t be revisited.

If the tribunal does collapse and Chinese pressure on Hun Sen is seen as the culprit, international outrage will probably be minimal. After all, amid breathless reports on the country’s GDP and the occasional bit about urban-rural stratification, China’s ghastly human rights record doesn’t get nearly as much play in the press as it did in the 1990s.

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