The government is seeking international support to help fulfill the bulk of its $13.3 million contribution to the future Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying it will only be able to contribute $1.5 million in cash to the needed $56.3 million costs.
The request for additional assistance was made on Friday and comes on the heels of today’s Khmer Rouge tribunal pledging session at the UN Headquarters in New York chaired by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. So far the UN has received pledges totaling some $29 million. At today’s meeting, foreign governments will be asked to pledge funds to cover the shortfall in the tribunal’s projected three-year operating costs.
“Complementary to the [UN] Secretary General’s appeal…we are appealing to interested states to assist Cambodia in meeting its allocated share of the budget,” Om Yentieng, adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said at a meeting with foreign diplomats on Friday.
Om Yentieng said that Cambodia’s contribution will actually amount to $6.7 million as the
government will contribute an additional $5.2 million as in kind expenses for the trial. The $5.2 million lies outside the $56.3 million tribunal budget and will include security costs and the cost of providing premises for the trials.
Om Yentieng also defended the relocation of the planned tribunal from the Chaktomuk Hall in Phnom Penh to the yet to be opened RCAF High Command Headquarters in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district.
He cited the need to provide better facilities such as access to the Internet for the media and NGOs.
Reacting to concerns of possible intimidation due to the holding of a court of law at a military installation, Om Yentieng maintained that the new RCAF headquarters was just an ordinary building and that there were no troops or weapons on the site.
“It is not a torture center or a base that keeps tanks,” Om Yentieng said. “That building is just like the office of the Council of Ministers.”
In December, National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh said that to ensure a truly international standard of justice “any place outside the military barracks must be better.”
Om Yentieng also said that if today’s meeting raises the required funds, Cambodia would be ready to start the tribunal within three months. But the speed of the tribunal start time depends on the UN, which would likely be slowed by its bureaucracy, he said.
“Cambodia cannot say how long it will take for the trial to be held. But we imagine that the UN [will be] slower than us because it has a more complicated bureaucracy than ours. Its ship is much bigger, and it cannot turn like ours,” he added.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said that the government was responsible for providing its share of $13.3 million but that the method by which the government raises those funds is immaterial.
“Whatever methods it uses to collect those funds is irrelevant. They are responsible,” Youk Chhang said.
Sean Visoth, head of the Khmer Rouge tribunal Task Force, left Saturday to attend the UN pledging ceremony and was not available for comment.