India pledged $1 million to help cover Cambodia’s share of the Khmer Rouge tribunal budget on Friday, becoming the first country to contribute money on behalf of the Cambodian government and its $11.8 million shortfall.
The move raises expectations that other countries will follow suit after a months-long apparent stalemate in which donor countries expressed reluctance to help foot the government’s portion of the bill, and some observers accused the government of stalling to prevent the tribunal from happening.
VK Sharma, the Indian Embassy’s first secretary, said India has been involved in preparing for the Khmer Rouge tribunal since negotiations began in 1997. He said the decision to contribute money on behalf of the Cambodian government reflected the reality of the government’s needs.
“If you look at the needs of Cambodia,” Sharma said, “most of the need is for salaries. We should try to do what we can.”
He dismissed suggestions the Cambodian government was stalling. “If they were able to get [the $11.8 million needed for the government’s share of the budget], they would not have issued an appeal,” Sharma said, adding that India’s move may spur other countries to take similar action.
According to an agreement between the UN and Cambodia, the international community was to contribute $43 million of the tribunal’s $56.3-million budget.
The government was to cover the remaining $13.3 million, but it announced in March that it could only afford to pay $1.5 million, and issued a formal appeal to interested countries for additional help with the remainder.
The international community has nearly raised its full share of the budget and Japan has offered to allow Cambodia to use money intended for development projects to cover the shortfall, but the government has said it will only do so as a last resort.
India had expressed an interest in May in contributing material support instead of money, but “they decided in the end the need was more pressing,” said Helen Jarvis, adviser to the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal taskforce.
“It is a welcome decision and very significant,” Jarvis said, adding that India had not mentioned how much it would contribute until Friday. “This reflects the long-standing relationship between India and Cambodia,” she said.
British Ambassador David Reader commended India’s contribution and hoped it would encourage other countries to do the same, though he did not say whether the UK would contribute more funds beyond its initial $2.6-million pledge.
One Asian diplomat, while praising India’s move, was skeptical that other countries would now jump forward to make similar pledges.
“It will hopefully bring the tribunal closer to happening,” the diplomat said. “But it doesn’t seem like the taskforce is doing anything” to raise money on its own.
The UN has named a deputy coordinator for the tribunal and received nominations from interested countries for international judges and prosecutors to preside over it.
Jarvis said the government is finishing up its criteria for Cambodian judges and prosecutors and is working on the selection process to appoint them. She would neither confirm nor deny rumors that those appointments have already been made.