Japan fill March Payroll for K Rouge Tribunal

Japan on Friday announced a renewed contribution of $200,000 to the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, delaying for at least a month a financial crisis that had threatened to see the court’s Cambodian staff go unpaid for the second time in less than a year.

The Japanese donation was the first to the Cambodian side of the tribunal since the UN announced in August that it had suspended funds while reviewing allegations that Cambodian staff had been made to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

With no new contributions to the Cambodian side and the exhaustion this month of a previous $2.9 million Japanese donation made in June, the tribunal’s 251 Cambodian employees were due to go without pay until donors resumed funding, no date for which has yet been set.

“I think this is just coming in time,” said tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath, adding that the donation would fully fund the Cambodian staff payroll for this month.

“April, we are optimistic that we will receive new funds,” he said.

It was unclear Friday whether the Japanese contribution would do more than postpone the budget crisis for another 30 days.

Since the approval of the court’s new budget in July, the tribunal’s UN side has received pledges of nearly $30 million. Few donors have publicly expressed readiness to support the Cambodian side of the court in the short term.

In August, donors who channeled their contributions to the Cambodian side of the court via the UN Development Program ordered a freeze on payments. That order has yet to be reversed.

A committee of UN and Cambodian court officials is due to report Monday both to donors and to the government on discussions held this month to finalize the details of a new anti-corruption program.

In response to questions submitted Friday, UNDP said it was too soon to say when, or if, the donors’ freeze would be undone.

“It is unclear at this point when and if UNDP would resume its role as a fund manager for some donor funds contributed to the national side of the court as the discussions among partners are ongoing,” the UN agency said in an e-mail.

“It is crucial that the issue of corruption is appropriately addressed and resolved so that the court’s work can continue. The judicial process should not be compromised by corruption within the court.”

Japan made its June contribution before the kickback allegations were reported. And following the freeze of the UNDP funds in Au­gust, a technical delay in making the Japanese funds available caused the Cambodian side to receive their July paychecks two weeks late.

Friday’s donation by Japan, the tribunal’s single largest donor, which provides a third of its overall budget, was made after donors had been made aware of kickback allegations on the Cambodian side of the court.

Cambodian officials say they have been given no direct evidence of corruption.

The Japanese Embassy said Friday that it was following efforts of both Cambodian and UN officials to resolve the kickbacks matter.

“The Government of Japan follows closely the both parties’ efforts and encourages them to reach an agreement for further improvement of court management,” the embassy wrote in an e-mail. “At the same time, it is our firm stance that strict and appropriate measures must be taken if any misuse of fund are found in the court,” it added.


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