Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal short of money | Connect Asia

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal short of money

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal short of money

Updated 11 February 2013, 15:23 AEDT

The UN-backed war crimes tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders is once again under threat because of a lack of money from the Cambodian side.

The court urgently needs $US9.5 million to keep functioning this year and around 270 Cambodian staff at the trial, including prosecutors and judges, have not been paid since November.

Contracts for the tribunal's international staff have been extended until June but there is reportedly talk of strikes by Cambodian staff if they don't receive their salaries.

A mix of Cambodian and UN-appointed judges are trying three men accused of being the most senior Khmer Rouge leaders and most responsible for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people in the 1970s.

The suspects are Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan.

Cambodia says it is committed to holding these trials, so why can't it find the money?

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Lars Olsen, the Legal Communications Officer of the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

OLSEN: It's important to remember that Cambodia has contributed in kind contribution to the court through his life existence and it is also currently for this year's budget contributing about 1.8 million dollars. However, what the Cambodian Government have said that this is what they can do and they are depending on donors to why the remaining parts of the budget and which they have received support for in the previous years, but this year, it seems that it's more difficult to get the donations needed for the national budget.

COCHRANE: Well, the last funding crisis was only averted because Japan came up and stumped up the money to pay for staff salaries. I mean why is it that the government is now not being able to find the money? Are they being asked for more contributions than they were earlier expecting?

OLSEN: Well, the government has increased their contributions from the beginning until now, but they have said that it's difficult for them to find more money than the current level they've had and they have had enjoyed the support from the donors for the first six years of the court's operation, so they are basically saying that they can't replace the donors efforts to fully fund the 9.5 million budget.

COCHRANE: How long can this continue, without some sort of solution?

OLSEN: Well, obviously not for too long. As you've said, there have been now two months with no salaries being paid to our colleagues and I think everyone understands that there's a limit to how long people both are willing or are able to go to work without being paid. Because, of course, people have obligations, financial obligations that they need to meet and now we see that more people say that they may have to go outside the tribunal to find temporary employment.

COCHRANE: And what about the talk of strikes? I mean is that a possibility or will people just walk away?

OLSEN: Well, as far as I know, the national colleagues have said since then that this is an option on the table. So far they have decided to stay on their jobs, but I don't think the threat of walking out has.... I think that threat is still valid.

COCHRANE: And how far away are we do you think of people striking or taking some kind of action? I mean are we talking months, weeks, days, how far away?

OLSEN: I think that's difficult for me to speculate on, but as I said, they have now been two months without receiving any salary and I think it's reaching the limit of what people can actually manage.

COCHRANE: Let's talk a little bit about what the money would go towards if Cambodia did actually find the 9.5 million dollars needed to keep things on the rails. What is expected of the tribunal this year?

OLSEN: Well, we are now in the middle of the trial against the three accused in case two, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary, and we were hoping that the first trial against these three accused could be completed this year in terms of hearing the evidence, and, of course, if we will have a situation staff will go elsewhere for their employment, this may have an impact on the progress of the proceedings.

COCHRANE: I imagine it would have a fairly significant impact. I think it. Wouldn't it mean the end of the tribunal?

OLSEN: Well, no one has threatened to kind of permanently leave, but what they have said is that temporarily until money will come, they may find other means or ways to supporting themselves and their family. But it's obvious that, the international community cannot, or the international side of the tribunal cannot run this trial alone. This is a hybrid which has two parts, and, of course, one part alone cannot continue the trial if the other part is not there. So obviously we are completely dependent on our national colleagues in order to be able to continue the trial.

COCHRANE: And, what sort of conversations might be happening in Cambodia at the moment between the Cambodian Government, between donors, to try to find some sort of solution?

OLSEN: Well, I'm quite certain that there are a lot of conversations going on and hopefully these conversations will lead to a solution.

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