Japan on Tuesday reduced its financial support for the Khmer Rouge tribunal to less than a quarter of the amounts pledged in previous years, leaving other donors wondering who would make up for the shortfall left by a country that had been the backbone of the court’s finances.
At the pledging conference held at UN headquarters in New York, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu said his country would provide $2.9 million to the tribunal’s UN side and $2.26 million for its Cambodian side, which currently has no money.
Until this week, Japan had provided 50 percent of all donations, pledging over $20 million in 2005 and 2009 to the court’s UN side. It has been the only donor to support the court’s Cambodian side since 2008.
In remarks delivered at the chamber of the UN Economic and Social Council, Mr Takasu appeared to acknowledge the anxieties such a reduction in support could cause among other donors and court officials.
“Japan will continue to play an appropriate role in the following years to come,” he said in a portion of his remarks obtained yesterday.
The government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, whose Democratic Party in September broke the Liberal Democratic Party’s 55-year hold on power, is now faced with sovereign debt at 200 percent of GDP and is to unveil a new penny-pinching fiscal strategy next month.
Total donations pledged for the court this week amounted to an anemic $16.9 million, falling short both of the $21 million budget shortfall announced for this year and leaving 2011 almost completely unfunded.
Tuesday’s pledge tally by UN Controller Jun Yamazaki included a $5 million donation announced earlier this year by the US. Australia on Tuesday also announced a contribution of AU$5 million, or $4.18 million, of which $625,000 is devoted to the Cambodian side.
However, other donors reduced their support to near symbolic levels in a sign that the Cambodia tribunal had become a low international priority in a time of global fiscal duress.
Germany, which had in 2008 announced pledges totaling $6.4 million, reduced its support to 500,000 euros, or $614,000, the same amount pledged by France, also a key donor in the past.
“We’re all in dire straits,” one donor country representative in New York said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. The low-ball pledges can also be a means of encouraging frugality on the part of the court, he said.
“We may have to think of ways that the court can make more effective use of the revenues they received,” he said.
Norway pledged $500,000, adding to the $1 million pledged in 2005. After having pledged $150,000 in 2005, South Korea, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s home country, announced no pledge on Tuesday, according to Lars Olsen, UN spokesman for the court.
Luxembourg promised 20,000 euros, or $24,500, while New Zealand made a one-time pledge of NZD$50,000, or $33,500. The UK, which underwent a change of government this month and is also facing soaring sovereign debt, announced no pledge. Vietnam, Thailand and Laos offered expressions of moral support but no money, according to a person briefed on the conference, which was not open to the public.
Donor country representatives contacted this week said any reticence on their part had little to do with concerns of political interference or complaints of poor government cooperation with the court raised by monitors.
Six senior CPP members last year disregarded summonses issued by an international judge at the tribunal.
There were no immediate answers as to what to do about Japan’s reduced support.
“We must fill the gaps left by the Japanese,” said a European diplomat who requested anonymity. The matter will be resolved, he said, “but with what feeling of urgency, I have my doubts.”
Mr Olsen, the court spokesman, said yesterday that the money pledged would help but would have to be supplemented this year. The court hoped the $3.4 million in pledges for the court’s Cambodian side, which is now unfunded, would help avoid a work-stoppage.
“Since there were concrete pledges given to the national side, we are hopeful that these pledges will be followed with concrete transfers of money as soon as possible,” he said.
Questions submitted Wednesday to the Japanese Embassy were not answered.