Cambodian lawyers should receive equal pay for equal work at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Cambodian Bar Association Secretary-General Ly Tayseng said in an interview Monday.
Under the terms agreed to by the UN and the government of Cambodia, Cambodian staffers at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia make half of what their international counterparts do.
“We believe lawyers should be entitled to the same pay for the same work, regardless of nationality. There should be no discrimination,” Ly Tayseng said.
“Cambodian lawyers are more qualified than foreign lawyers who don’t speak Khmer and don’t understand the working culture of Cambodia,” he added. “It’s unfair. It’s discrimination.”
Peter Foster, the tribunal’s UN public affairs officer, said Monday that pay scales for Cambodian staff were set out in a memorandum of understanding signed by Cabinet Minister Sok An on behalf of the Cambodian government and by Karsten Herrel on behalf of international donor states.
“The 50 percent rate goes across the board, for all staff in every department,” Foster said. “It’s not up to us to change the agreement,” he added.
ECCC principal defender Rupert Skilbeck could not be reached for comment Monday. In an interview last month Skilbeck said that salaries for defense attorneys at the tribunal would be set in line with those of the tribunal’s prosecutors and would likely be “many times” what local lawyers currently earn in court.
Ly Tayseng said that Cambodian lawyers defending poor clients in the courts of Cambodia normally make about $150 to $200 per case, but added that those rates reflected Cambodia’s financial situation rather than the value of the services rendered.
The defense support section has $4.7 million of UN funds at its disposal to help pay defense fees.
ECCC Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng declined to comment on the salary issue, though trial chamber Judge Thou Mony said that the wage discrepancy demeaned Cambodian staffers.
“They don’t give us equal value,” he said, adding that he did not know why the differential had been agreed to in the first place.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)