Another barrier to the establishment of a Khmer Rouge tribunal was removed Tuesday with the announcement that Cambodia will use a special fund set up by the Japanese government to pay its remaining share of the Khmer Rouge trial budget, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Hor Namhong said that Cambodia would accept the offer made earlier this month during the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura.
“They [the Japanese government] have already offered. We will use this money, so we hope that the Khmer Rouge tribunal can proceed soon,” Hor Namhong said at the Foreign Ministry, following a signing ceremony with the European Union.
“Money is no longer an issue,” he said.
Last year, Cambodia and the UN agreed that the international community would contribute $43 million of the tribunal’s $56.3-million budget. Cambodia was to contribute $13.3 million but in March announced it would only be able to afford $1.5 million and would need help from other sources to raise the remaining $11.8 million.
Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi said on Tuesday that he was not yet aware of the Cambodian government’s decision to accept the offer and said that Japan would need specific details from Cambodia on how the money will be spent.
“They need to come with an expenditure program,” he said Tuesday.
According to the Japanese ambassador, the funding will come from a special bank account set up for Cambodia several years ago that contains Japanese yen.
The Cambodian government has used the yen account to purchase commodities, such as oil suppliers, because foreign countries will not accept riel as payment. The commodities bought with yen are then resold to local suppliers for riel.
The riel earned from the local commodities sale is then put into another bank account to be used for local projects such as hospitals, irrigation and infrastructure, Takahashi said.
Whenever money for such a project is needed, the Cambodian government sends a proposal to Japan for approval, which is almost always given, he said.
The money can be used for “anything but weapons,” he added.
While many projects have been paid for with the Japanese account, Takahashi said that over the past few years the money in the riel account has accumulated, though he did not know exactly how much is currently in the account. There were, however, more than enough funds to pay for Cambodia’s share of the tribunal budget, he said.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and a member of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal taskforce, said a detailed budget for the tribunal has already been prepared and sent to the countries involved, but more information can be made available if necessary.
Though UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced at the end of April that enough money had been pledged for the tribunal to begin proceedings, the government has said that the tribunal cannot move forward until the full $56.3 million has been secured and is in the bank.