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Ieng Sary satisfied with his reconciliation role in Cambodia.

PAILIN, Cambodia, Dec. 19 Kyodo

Ieng Sary, the former deputy prime minister of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime, said Tuesday he was satisfied with his role in bringing about peace and national reconciliation in Cambodia, and vowed he will continue to help rebuilding the war-torn country.

Ieng Sary, who was also a foreign minister in the Khmer Rouge government, said he has been contributing to national rebuilding and reconciliation since he defected to the government in 1996.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly emphasized in the past that Ieng Sary made a significant contribution to national reconciliation by leading some 70% of former Khmer Rouge forces to the government side, a move that led to the elimination of the Pol Pot-led military organization.

Ieng Sary's statements on Tuesday came as the Hun Sen government tries to deal with intense pressure, notably from the United Nations and the United States, to set up an internationally accepted tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians.

His comments to the media were the first in almost two years.

Ieng Sary said he was not responsible for the genocide, claiming he was only in charge of foreign affairs and was never involved with handling security matters.

Ieng Sary said he thought the proposed trial should be abandoned to enable the Hun Sen government to focus on pressing economic and political issues.

Ieng Sary, 70, now lives permanently in Phnom Penh, but regularly travels to his hometown of Pailin to stay in touch with his former followers and the town's leaders.

In August 1996, Ieng Sary and the Khmer Rouge forces that controlled Pailin and Malai defected to the government and negotiated a peace settlement.

Ieng Sary was sentenced to death in absentia in 1979 along with Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. He denied responsibility for the atrocities committed under the Pol Pot regime and was granted a royal amnesty in September 1996 by King Norodom Sihanouk after he defected to the government.

Following his defection, Ieng Sary formed a new political organization, the Democratic National United Movement, which works on unity and peace rather than political issues.

He said he met with 30 government officials on Sunday in Pailin and told them not to get involved in any armed movement that might bring chaos to the country.

''I also advised them to work closely with people in their areas to better agricultural harvests,'' he said. He said local people should not depend on imported daily necessities, including vegetables, mostly from Thailand.

Pailin was once famous for gems, lucrative minerals and timber resources.

Whether Ieng Sary will be brought to trial eventually is unclear. Hun Sen has said in the past that he will not be tried by the Cambodian government due to his key role in initiating peace and national reconciliation.

Any possible tribunal on the Khmer Rouge is made difficult by split opinions on the form the trial should take, including the involvement of foreign judges and prosecutors.

Critics suggest Hun Sen and many others in the government do not want to see a trial at all, because it may call their own actions in the late 1970s and afterwards into question.

China, too, is to loathe to see the Khmer Rouge leadership tried because it was the deadly regime's main backer.

The Khmer Rouge's former head Khieu Samphan and ideological chief Nuon Chea are also living freely in Pailin.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 25, 2000
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