Some 200 Cambodian staff at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia learned Tuesday that their salaries are only guaranteed for seven more weeks, court officials said.
The tribunal’s Director of Administration, Sean Visoth, told the assembled staff members that funds for the Cambodian side of the court, which covers Cambodian salaries, would run out at the end of April, the tribunal’s Chief of Public Affairs Helen Jarvis said Wednesday.
“This is the only responsible thing he could do. He must inform the staff before you say to them there is no money in the kitty,” Jarvis said, adding that the news was greeted with some apprehension and concern.
“He’s not suggesting he thinks that would happen, but it would have been remiss not to inform them,” she added.
Jarvis expressed confidence that given the court’s judicial progress, the international donor community would not pull out, but she added: “Nobody has yet given us a dollar figure.”
In January, the tribunal estimated that its budgetary needs would be $170 million, up from an initial estimate of $56.3 million.
In recent weeks, some donors have called on the government to come up with stopgap funds. Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has said that the government is prepared to give more, but had yet to commit to a precise figure.
The government initially committed $1.5 million in cash to the court and an estimated $5.2 million in kind over three years. As of Dec 31, the Finance Ministry had delivered $1.1 million to the ECCC’s account, according to the tribunal’s year-end financial progress report.
Jarvis said she hoped the government, which currently provides about 15 percent of the court’s initial $56.3-million budget, would fund the same percentage of the court’s larger, revised budget.
Phnom Penh diplomats have said that active bargaining is now under way. “You ask for $20 because you need actually $10, so we’ll give you $8,” one senior diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be ugly, like usual,” he added.
Some donors remain uneasy in the wake of mismanagement scandals that broke last year. Late last year, the European Commission requested a review of the court’s reform plan.
That review has been completed, and final results are expected within three weeks, according to one diplomatic official involved in the process who is not authorized to speak to the press.
Some donors have said they are awaiting the results of the EC review before committing more funds.
The ECCC’s Cambodian Chief of Personnel Keo Thyvuth and the court’s Cambodian Chief of Budget and Finance Thoung Socheat declined to speak with a reporter Wednesday. Chief of Court Management Kranh Tony did not respond to a request for comment.