Japan Donation to ECCC To Cover Half of 2009

Japan will donate $21 million to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a grant that will fund nearly half of the tribunal’s operations in 2009, a Jap­anese Foreign Ministry official announced Sunday after a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japan’s foreign minister in Phnom Penh.

Japan, the tribunal’s largest donor, pledged last year to donate more than $112 million to Cam­bodia for 2009, and this new grant will add $21 million to that figure when approved by Japanese parliament in the next few weeks, Ta­keshi Akamatsu, a Japanese For­eign Ministry spokesman, told reporters at a news briefing.

“This is part of the peace process. The conclusion of it,” he said of the tribunal. “This is part of our support to the Cambodian people.”

Japan has already given $21.6 million to the court, he said.

This most recent cash infusion, to the UN side of the court, follows allegations last year of corruption and kickbacks that have haunted the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. The allegations caused some donors to freeze funding to the Cambodian side of the court, which has received no additional funding since August.

Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and Hun Sen did not discuss the allegations in their 75-minute meeting Sunday morning, Akamatsu said.

“We didn’t discuss corruption,” he said. “We hope that any allegations of corruption are not actually the case.”

Hun Sen requested money for the Cambodian side as well, Akamatsu said, adding that Japan will consider that request.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials could not be reached for comment Sunday about the donation.

The budget for the Cambodian side of the court for this fiscal year is $10.8 million, and the UN side’s budget is $39.5 million, according to the ECCC Web site.

The court badly needs the money, as presently, funding for the Cambodian side will only last until March, and the international side’s funding will only last until May, said Reach Sambath, spokes­man for the court.

Even with this latest donation from Japan, the international side of the court will still need about $10 million in 2009.

“We, the court, very much appreciate the commitment and effort made by the people and government of Japan to make this trial move forward,” Reach Sambath said by telephone.

He added that allegations of corruption are “out of date” and that the court is committed to investigating any such allegations.

In his meeting with Hun Sen, Nakasone also reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to fund a bridge across the Mekong River in Prey Veng province, where vehicles currently must use a ferry to continue trips on National Road 1.

Akamatsu said engineers are surveying the land in Prey Veng province and designing the bridge but a timetable has not been established on the completion of the bridge, which could cost nearly $90 million.

The bridge will be a major conduit in regional trade, he said.

Japan also held a ceremony over the weekend for the donation of nearly $10 million in demining equipment and $2.5 million in medical equipment and supplies, such as incinerators and vaccines, to combat infectious diseases, according to information supplied by the Japanese Embassy.

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