Rouge threat to `expose US, China'

- Hong Kong Standard, January 2, 1999 -

STORY: ANY trial of Khmer Rouge leaders will expose the roles of the United States and China in the brutal guerillas' rise to power, an aide to two Khmer Rouge leaders who defected in return for amnesty warned.

Calls have been mounting, however, for someone to be held accountable for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-79.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, the two leaders who defected last week after nearly two decades of waging war from the jungles, left the seaside town of Sihanoukville for Phnom Penh as they continued a government-arranged pleasure tour of the country they once devastated. Their aide, Long Norin, snapped when asked about increasing pressure to try the two and said they were prepared to bring their own case to an international court if Khmer Rouge members are arrested for crimes against humanity.

``Implementing a trial would also involve the 200 days and nights of bombing in Cambodia,'' Long Norin said in reference to the US carpet bombing of Cambodia in the early 1970s before the Khmer Rouge took power.

``It may also involve China,'' he added.

China was the chief benefactor of the Khmer Rouge throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution is seen as the inspiration for the disastrous attempt by the Khmer Rouge to create an agrarian utopia by forcing Cambodia's entire population into crude agricultural collectives.

The two Khmer Rouge leaders sealed a defection deal last week with Prime Minister Hun Sen that included guarantees they would not be brought to trial for the deaths of as many as two million during their failed 1975-79 experiment.

The defection deal initially received the blessings of King Norodom Sihanouk and Mr Hun Sen's coalition partner Prince Norodom Ranariddh, but political support has steadily melted away since the two guerilla leaders arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The king, who had 14 members of his family killed by the Khmer Rouge, reversed his position on Wednesday when he endorsed international efforts to try the defectors.

The Funcinpec party said there was also broad support within the popular royalist party for a trial.

Long Norin bristled at those reports. ``If they push for this, we will dig up the past and present our own case. Then we will go to The Hague together (with the US and China) for trial,'' he said. - AP