In what some observers called a challenge to the international community, the government released a statement Monday announcing its completion of the legal legwork for the Khmer Rouge tribunal and passing responsibility for the trial’s future to the UN and donor nations.
Barely two weeks after Senate President and acting Head of State Chea Sim signed off on the remaining amendments to the 2001 Khmer Rouge tribunal law and approved the UN-Cambodia agreement on the trial, the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the UN’s desire and ability to raise money remained the trial’s only obstacle.
“Therefore, the Royal Government of Cambodia has completed her legal procedure and wishes to see the United Nations [undertake] the necessary steps so that the Khmer Rouge trial can be expedited,” the statement said.
“They’re trying to say the ball is in the UN’s court,” said an Asian diplomat familiar with the trial.
Government officials and trial observers alike have long maintained that the budget is now the trial’s greatest sticking point, with estimates ranging from a donor-favored $30 million to a government price tag of $60 million.
Sean Visoth, head of the government’s task force on the trial, said that the tribunal will cost around $57 million. “We have the agreement ratified…we have approved the amendments,” he said. “What remains is the budget issue.”
The UN-Cambodia agreement on the trial states that the Cambodian government will contribute to some of the tribunal’s cost. However, budgetary difficulties on the Cambodian side could mean that the government will look to donors for help with the domestic share as well.
“They [the government] have no money,” the diplomat said.
“In principal it should be shared, the costs of the tribunal,” said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia. He said the tribunal funds should be part of next month’s Consultative Group meeting, where donors discuss aid allocation for the upcoming year.