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Cablegate: Sok an On the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

VZCZCXRO1660
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0883/01 3081237
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 031237Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0050
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0456
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS IMMEDIATE 0654
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 3233
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 2330
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 000883

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, D, P, DRL, IO, S/WCI
USUN FOR M. SIMONOFF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/03/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV KJUS EAID PHUM CB
SUBJECT: SOK AN ON THE KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 775
B. PHNOM PENH 653

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. PIPER CAMPBELL FOR REASONS 1.4 (B
, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: As a follow-up to a coordinated donor
strategy to engage Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC)
officials on corruption allegations in the Cambodian
administrative side of the Extraordinary Chambers in the
Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and in the context of ongoing
discussions with other officials, Charge October 31 called on
Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of
Ministers, to relay the USG's shared concerns about the
unresolved report from the UN Office of Internal Oversight
Services (Ref B). Sok An chose to meet on a Cambodian
holiday in advance of extended official travel and indicated
that he understood implicitly the primary concern was for the
removal of ECCC Director Sean Visoth. Although hinting that
the removal of Visoth remained on the table, Sok An made a
legalistic case for adhering to due process before removing
one of only two Cambodians who have been with the Khmer Rouge
Tribunal (KRT) since the inception of UN negotiations in
1997. He made several pointed criticisms of the UN, all but
asserting that UN meddling was intended to mar Cambodia's
significant contributions to the KRT and to assert UN
dominance over it. Sok An also criticized the absence of
communication between the UN and Cambodian sides of the
court. In the wake of a planned UN/OLA visit in late
November, the Japanese embassy has called for a meeting of
core donors on November 6. END SUMMARY.

Concern about Corruption
------------------------

2. (C) Noting the U.S. had joined the donor community to
support the KRT, and citing the good work of the court's
judicial process, Charge raised a concern of the donor group
about allegations of corruption on the administrative side of
the court. Sok An reviewed the KRT's "five achievements"
saying that this was a laudable record of accomplishment and
that nothing should be done to undermine this "package" of
success. Some of the concerns being raised by donors did not
reflect the progress being made; we need to keep our focus on
the trials and bring the court's work to a conclusion, he
said.

3. (C) Sok An reviewed the four main goals of the court.
First the ECCC was supposed to provide justice to Cambodians
who suffered under the Khmer Rouge. Second, the KRT would
serve to preserve the memory of the Khmer Rouge atrocities
and avoid future repetition. Third, the court could serve as
a model for other countries contemplating a hybrid court and
seeking to try war crimes or genocide on their own soil.
Fourth, the KRT was a means to help ensure peace, security
and stability for the Cambodian people.

4. (C) The concerns being raised were a distraction from the
goals of the court, said Sok An. Besides, a number of
internal audits had been carried out and did not find any
evidence of wrongdoing. The administrative machinery was
doing its job to allow the court to achieve justice and we
should not let these distractions delay the work. (NOTE:
None of the audits to date have examined allegations of
providing jobs for kickbacks. END NOTE.) Sok An similarly
implied that the international community was attempting the
undermine Cambodia's successful contribution to the peaceful
and secure handling of a trial that proved to be "difficult
and risky."

Allegations Against One Man
---------------------------

5. (C) In response to reference to the OIOS report, Sok An
acknowledged that allegations had been made against one man
but asked if there were evidence to prove the allegations.
He noted an exchange of letters with the UN raising the
allegations and other points, but there was not yet a
response to his latest letter to the UN. Cambodians involved
in the process continued to suggest points for an additional
RGC letter to the UN, he said (although he later acknowledged
that tit-for-tat letters were not productive). Sok An noted
that the RGC had never claimed there was no corruption in
Cambodia. No country is perfect, he averred. But the court
was doing good work and should not have obstacles raised in
front of it.

PHNOM PENH 00000883 002.2 OF 003

6. (C) Sok An continued that he once told UNAKRT Special
Expert and UN Assistant Secretary General David Tolbert that
he understood the request to remove one man from the ECCC
administration. "I never said 'no' to David Tolbert
regarding that suggestion," he noted. He mentioned that he
had been willing to consider the proposition. (COMMENT: In
this meeting, he again did not outright reject the potential
dismissal of Sean Visoth, whom he alluded to directly but
never mentioned by name. END COMMENT.). But the work of the
court must go on, Sok An continued. At this time there are
only two people at the court who have been there since the
beginning, he noted. It would be difficult to operate
without them. Sok An mentioned the need for strong
administration at the court. The judicial side was going
well and the administrative side was also performing well, so
why should we change it, Sok An asked rhetorically.

Questions About UN Motivations
------------------------------

7. (C) In response to Charge's query about a "political
solution," Sok An went into a long discourse about the
Cambodia-UN negotiation on the ECCC that began in 1997,
implying the UN was not always a trustworthy negotiating
partner. At one point, UN/OLA's Hans Corell sought to change
a feature of the hybrid ECCC arrangement that had already
been agreed. "He tried to throw out his own baby in front of
everybody," said Sok An.

8. (C) Sok An seemed hesitant to accept that any real change
in UN attitudes had occurred, asserting that some in the UN
wanted to raise obstacles, although he acknowledged that
UNAKRT Special Expert David Tolbert had a reasonable approach
and said that he had had a good exchange with Tolbert. (This
was when he repeated to Charge his line to Tolbert that the
idea of moving one man was not off the table.)

More Evidence of Mistrust
-------------------------

9. (C) Sieng Vandeth, Chief of Cabinet in the Council of
Ministers, noted that he spoke to ECCC Deputy Director Knut
Rosandhaug on October 30 and when he asked if Rosandhaug had
ever spoken to any of the witnesses in the case, Rosandhaug
responded in the negative. When asked how many direct
witnesses there were in the case, Rosandhaug had noted there
were five individuals. Implying this was a weak case,
Vandeth suggested that the UN wanted to get rid of Sean
Visoth because Visoth was a strong and effective
administrator.

10. (C) Sok An said that the RGC was continuing its own
investigation, but in the meantime the administrative
machinery had to keep functioning to support the court. Now
the UN and the Cambodian sides are not even talking, he said.
(NOTE: Few on the UN side have interacted with Visoth since
the OIOS report. END NOTE.) A court cannot function like
that, Sok An said. The Charge noted that when credible
allegations are brought against an individual, the
allegations cannot be ignored and must have an impact on
administrative functions. Sok An noted that the allegations
were not being ignored. However, without evidence a person
could not be fired.

Past and Present Interactions with the UN
-----------------------------------------

11. (C) In an exchange on former S/WCI Ambassador David
Scheffer, Sok An fondly recalled a private meeting he had
with Scheffer down at Sok An's Takeo province farm, during
which Scheffer helped break through an RGC-UN impasse at that
time. He noted that Scheffer had come straight from Phnom
Penh's Pochentong airport and had flown out the same day, so
as to avoid attracting notice or having to answer pressing
questions from journalists.

12. (C) In response to a question about a possible UN/OLA
visit, Sok An said that he had to attend a meeting of the
Centrist Democrat International in Mexico in early November.
Cambodia would be host to the CDI world conference in 2009,
so it was important to attend, he noted. It was not possible
to meet the OLA at this time, he said, but he expressed
willingness to meet with them if their dates can be changed.
(NOTE: According to UNAKRT's Giovanni Bassu, UN/OLA will
propose a trip in late November that matches Sok An's

PHNOM PENH 00000883 003 OF 003


availability. We understand that this will be no earlier
than Nov. 21. END NOTE.)

13. (C) COMMENT: This meeting follows on a stiffer, less
open exchange with MFA Secretary of State Ouch Borith in
mid-October in which Ouch Borith adhered to the more
legalistic arguments in defense of Sean Visoth. Sok An
appeared relaxed, sure of his position and willing to be
frank. He again alluded to the notion that at an appropriate
time Sean Visoth would move from the ECCC. However, absent a
serious effort by the UN to present and back up evidence, it
does not appear that the RGC will feel compelled to
investigate. If Sok An has indeed thought through a lateral
move for Visoth, the DPM's biggest worry may be finding a
suitable replacement who will assert Cambodian sovereignty in
the process and thus keep ownership of Cambodia's "success
story" at the KRT. While Sok An never suggested a quid pro
quo whereby Knut Rosandhaug and Sean Visoth are both moved,
his criticisms of the UN administration were pointed.
CAMPBELL

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