Wednesday, December 07, 2005

UN Representative to KR Tribunal Arrives

The Cambodia Daily, Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Lee Berthiaume
Additional report by Thet Sambath

Michelle Lee, the UN's representative to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening to conduct a two-week mission that may represent the first solid step toward making the trials become a reality.

Lee will stay until Dec 16 with the hope of returning permanently in January, said Lee's spokeswoman, Anne-Marie Ibanez.

"I hope it will definitely be a positive move for me to be here," said Lee after arriving at Phnom Penh International Airport.

"I'm doing a startup assessment to see when we can move everybody here," she said.

Lee and her team, which includes an information and networks specialist and her security chief, will meet with their Cambodian counterparts, diplomats and NGO representatives before turning attention to the logistics of setting up the $56.3-million tribunal, Ibanez said.

Lee's arrival comes one day ahead of the UN's interviewing of international judges and prosecutors nominated to participate in the tribunal. A shortlist will be forwarded to the Cambodian government for final decisions.

But controversy has erupted over who might be named as the Cambodian government's tribunal spokesperson.

With the announcement two weeks ago that Sean Visoth will serve as the tribunal's coordinator, speculation has mounted that the government's tribunal task force adviser and Australian national Helen Jarvis will serve as the spokesperson.

Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he felt the post should be filled by a Cambodian and should speak Khmer.

"This office is a key office," he said. "It is about managing public expectations and getting the public involved. A Cambodian voice is very important," he added.

Jarvis, who holds a Cambodian passport, said that no decision had been made on the position and said she did not expect the government to fill the post in the near future.

"There have only been those two appointments," she added, referring to Sean Visoth's promotion and that of Tony Kranh, undersecretary of state for the Council of Ministers, as reserve director.

Ibanez, however, said it was the UN's understanding that the government had appointed Jarvis the chief of public affairs and communications with a UN appointee to work under her. "That is certainly our understanding," Ibanez said.

Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and editor-in chief of Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, said the nationality of the government's spokesperson on the tribunal was not important.

"I think the tribunal is not only for local journalists but also foreign journalists and community. Maybe she is a good choice," he said.


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