A draft of the government’s 2004 budget drawn up Wednesday morning allocates $7 million to funding a Khmer Rouge tribunal, a finance official said.
Finance Ministry Undersecretary of State Ngy Tayi said Wednesday that he came up with the figure, which has not been approved by Finance Minister Keat Chhon, after consulting Minister of Cabinet Sok An, who brokered the long-sought deal between the government and the UN to establish the tribunal.
The UN has said it expects the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders to cost in excess of $19 million—to be paid by Cambodia and UN member nations. Ngy Tayi estimated the costs for the trial, which is expected to take three years, to be roughly twice that.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, put the price tag lower than the original $19 million figure, saying Monday that many resources—personnel, material, premises—already are in place.
As for outside funding, Youk Chhang said potential donor nations are waiting to see what Japan will contribute. Japan is Cambodia’s top donor and is a longtime supporter of trying senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
India, France, Great Britain, Russia and the US have all expressed interest in helping a tribunal, either with funding or personnel. Japanese Ambassador Gotaro Ogawa said Wednesday that his government would put forth a “substantial contribution,” but could not yet speak in numbers. First, he said, Cambodia and the UN must present a more precise cost estimate.
Ogawa would not speak in percentages either, as there is no reliable ceiling on estimates, he said.
At this point, however, nothing seems definite. The UN-Cambodia agreement has not been ratified by the National Assembly, and the formation of a future government is in limbo.
“There are many elements of uncertainty, but we are trying to accelerate the process,” Ogawa said. The main concern is convening a new legislature, he added.
“If it is taken up formally [by the Assembly], it should happen quickly,” he said.
Youk Chhang voiced optimism about the agreement’s ratification being hurried, but less confidence in the country’s parliamentarians. “Our politicians are still learning what human rights are about. This is the foundation of democracy and prosperity,” he said.
He also defended the UN-sanctioned tribunal against critics who have said it provides no hope for justice because it will be held in Cambodia and run predominantly by Cambodian judges.
“The UN will play a major role in helping Cambodia,” he said, arguing that the world body’s participation will strengthen the country’s widely criticized judiciary and legal system, and the international limelight that will accompany the process will encourage Cambodian judges to seek justice.
Asked when a new parliament might take up the issue, Ang Vong Vathana, a member of the government’s tribunal task force, responded, “Who knows? It is one of the priorities.”