Donors Want KR Tribunal Budget Cut

Nations considering support for a trial of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders have told the UN to slash its proposed $50 million share of the three-year budget, according to sources close to the negotiations in New York.

Sean Visoth, executive secretary of the government’s tribunal task force, said Thursday that the world body has asked interested nations to contribute $50 million to a UN-administered fund, while the Cambodian government will come up with another $15 million.

But potential donors want the UN to drop their cut to $30 million, Sean Visoth said.

He said he was not worried about the UN reducing its draft budget, as long as the tribunal met international standards of justice, credibility and accountability.

And to do that, international participation is necessary, he said.

“No matter how [well] Cambo­dia can hold a tribunal, if we hold it [without international participation], they will regard it as a show trial,” Sean Visoth said.

Karsten Herrel, coordinator of the UN team working to establish the tribunal, declined by e-mail to answer specific questions about the negotiations.

However, he forwarded a previously written statement saying that the budget could only be reduced so much while still ensuring “efficiency and effectiveness.”

“It is the purpose of the current consultations with donor states to define that threshold,” Herrel wrote.

One observer said negotiations have evolved into a “full-scale revolt” by nations that have long urged for a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The observer said that the cry for cost cutting has been spearheaded by France, Japan and Australia, with strong support from the US, the Netherlands and others.

“It looks like they’ll force dramatic cuts in the budget,” the observer said, adding that the

$50 million proposal would pay for only a “bare bones” operation.

Most officials at local embassies of donor states, who could be reached on Thursday, declined to comment.

But one Phnom Penh-based diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the donors’ balking was reasonable.

“If you use a four-wheel drive or a regular car, it does not affect the credibility of the trial,” the diplomat said.

According to an undated document leaked from the negotiations, Australia expressed concern with overspending on transportation.

Australia also expressed concern over the trials running more than three years, the cost of defense counsel, having to hire expert witnesses, staffing requirements and several other points.

A copy of the minutes from an April 15 meeting between the UN secretariat and donors noted that a member of the secretariat invited donors to offer specific objections to the draft budget.

“The Secretariat could not wait indefinitely for States to indicate their positions and intentions as to which expenditures to fund, and to which degree,” the minutes noted.

As for Cambodia’s $15 million share of the budget, Sean Visoth said it has not been decided how much of that will come out of the national budget and how much needs to be raised through bilateral donations.

He also said there will be another $3 million in funding from sources he would not disclose.

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