Cambodian PM denies meddling in Khmer Rouge trial

Cambodia's strongman premier Hun Sen on Tuesday denied accusations by rights campaigners that his government has obstructed progress in a landmark Khmer Rouge war crimes trial.

"The power is in the hands of the court. Whether the process is slow or fast is up to the court, not me," Hun Sen said in a speech on a national radio, urging the UN-backed tribunal to move more quickly.

His remarks follow calls from donors, rights groups, the UN and the United States to speed up the trial of the remaining two defendants accused of genocide, after the death of a third suspect last week.

New York-based Human Rights Watch last week accused Hun Sen -- a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected and became premier in 1985 -- of trying to delay the trial.

It said the premier "has done everything in his power to stymie the tribunal's work."

The government has installed Cambodian court staff who have obstructed investigations and has failed to require its own members to give evidence, it said.

Fears that the top leadership of the hardline communist regime will escape justice have grown following the death last Thursday of regime co-founder Ieng Sary at the age of 87.

The two remaining defendants, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan -- who both deny charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity -- are in their 80s and also have health problems.

The tribunal has been frequently short of funding since it was set up in 2006 to find justice for the deaths of up to two million people.

The trial of the top regime leaders was suspended earlier this month after some local staff went on strike due to a row over unpaid wages. The court said on Monday that the dispute had been settled.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia during its 1975-79 rule.

The court has so far achieved just one conviction, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of about 15,000 people.