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Cambodia's former king questions necessity of Khmer Rouge tribunal
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-19 18:01 (KST)   
Cambodia's former king said a U.N.-backed tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders will cost too much money and questioned whether it was worth it since the aging officials could die before a verdict.

Former King Norodom Sihanouk said some consider the tribunal to be ''necessary, indispensable and beneficial'' because it will bring the surviving leaders to justice and help victims find peace.

But Sihanouk, 83, said he believes the cost of the ''super luxurious life of the judges'' of the tribunal could easily exceed the US$56 million (euro45 million) budgeted for the trials.

Also, by the time a verdict is reached, ''there will probably be only one or two ... living Khmer Rouge leaders,'' he said in a letter dated July 15 posted on his Web site.

The former monarch said last week that he opposed the tribunal because it will target too few of those responsible for the group's extremist policies, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people during its 1975-79 rule.

Earlier this month, judges and prosecutors from Cambodia and abroad were sworn in for the long-awaited U.N.-backed trials of the former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors have begun gathering evidence for the trials, expected to begin in 2007.

Sihanouk stepped down as king and was replaced by his son, Norodom Sihamoni, in 2004. He is widely respected, but his opinion is unlikely to affect trial preparations.

The Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979 by invading Vietnamese forces. In 1982, Sihanouk became president of a Western-backed coalition government in exile that included the Khmer Rouge and fought the Vietnamese-installed government until a 1991 U.N.-sponsored peace agreement.

Sihanouk also said in his letter that he doesn't think the tribunal would ease the suffering of the regime's victims.

He said he objected to genocide memorials that display victims' skulls and bones, an apparent reference to a site often called the ''Killing Fields'' just outside the capital, Phnom Penh.

At least 14,000 Khmer Rouge victims were buried at the site, which is frequented by foreign tourists.

Sihanouk said that exhibiting the skulls and bones was done ''for the pleasure of tourists,'' and did nothing for the ''wandering souls'' of those killed, and that their bones should be cremated in accordance with Buddhist custom.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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