Japan to Give Life-Saving Loan to Cash-Strapped KRT

Japan agreed Tuesday that some of the funding it has given to the U.N. will be redirected to the cash-strapped national side of the hybrid Khmer Rouge tribunal to help fill a $2.9 million budget shortfall, according to a government spokesman.

The war crimes court’s continual funding woes have resulted in more than 130 Cambodian staff going on strike this week over months of unpaid wages, and the government once again soliciting the international community for donations.

In a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Japanese Ambassador Kumamaru Yuji on Tuesday agreed to provide a loan through the U.N. to help support the national side of the court, the funding of which is the responsibility of the Cambodian government.

“The Japanese Ambassador in the meeting agreed with [Mr. An] for Japan to lend some amount of funds through the money Japan contributes to U.N….for the national side of the court,” said Ek Tha, spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit.

“The U.N. [will] channel [the money] to the international side. International side will then give the loan to the national side of the court,” he said.

Specifics on the size of the loan, or when it will be made available, were not discussed at the meeting, Mr. Tha said.

A spokesman for the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to confirm the Cambodian government’s report that it will provide the loan to the tribunal.

Allegations of political interference and corruption in the court since its establishment in 2007 have led to doubts about the government’s commitment to the body.

Mr. Tha declined to comment on the Japanese loan being channeled through the U.N. and not being given to the national side directly.

Mr. An also met with Australian Ambassador Alison Burrows in a separate meeting Tuesday, however Mr. Tha said that Australia had declined to provide additional funding to the national side of the court as it recently pledged about $3.5 million to the international side of the court.

This week’s strike action by more than half of the 250 local employees at the war crimes court is the second one this year. In March, the tribunal saw its first labor strike when more than 30 Cambodians stopped working over unpaid salaries.

Officials at the court have raised concerns that the budget woes and related strikes may further prolong sentencing of the octogenarian Pol Pot-era defendants in the current Case 002.

A court spokesman said that he hoped that Japan’s loan would allow Cambodian staff to return to work soon.

“If Japan promised to give money though the U.N. to the national side of the KRT, I think that the solution will be found,” said court spokesman Neth Pheaktra said.

“It…happened already during [the] first strike on March 2013. The national side got bridging funds from Norway and Sweden through the U.N.,” he said.

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