The special expert on U.N. assistance for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, David Scheffer, left Cambodia on Sunday for a six-day tour of Asean countries hoping to shore up some fresh funding for the perennially cash-strapped court in 2014.
Though the tribunal still faces a $2.9 million shortfall for national staff in 2013, Mr. Scheffer said in an email Sunday that his stops in Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore—in that order—would focus on funding for the year after. Mr. Scheffer will be making the trip with Keo Remy, vice president of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit and a spokesman for the Anti-Corruption Unit.
“For more than a year I have held discussions with the ambassadors in Phnom Penh of these particular Asean governments, as well as others representing Asean nations,” Mr. Scheffer said. “Mr. Remy and I have been encouraged to visit these capitals for further discussions. Their support is critical for the continued operation of this historic exercise in justice in the region.”
Of the $191 million pledged to the court since 2006, Thailand has been the only Asean country to contribute with just more than $24,000.
Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha, said this trip was aiming to change that. “They should come with financial support,” he said. “The trial of the Khmer Rouge teaches respect for democracy, respect for human rights.”
Before leaving Cambodia, Mr. Scheffer spent much of last week meeting with local representatives of some of the court’s major donors, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Friday, about the $2.9 million shortfall facing the court right now.
Last month, Cambodian staff at the court threatened to call the year’s second strike unless salaries due since May were paid. In an email Friday. Mr. Scheffer said securing enough funds to see the court through the end of the year was his “highest priority.”
“I have been extremely focused on the national budget crisis of the ECCC for months and it has been the central concern of my visit to Phnom Penh over the last three days,” he said.
Although the onus is on the government to fund the national side of the court, its contributions only cover operational costs, not salaries. Calls are consistently made to international donors to patch up gaps. However, there has long been a reticence to do so amid allegations of corruption at the court.
“I am optimistic that a solution will be found,” Mr. Scheffer said, “but it continues to take some time to discover that solution. I would hope that the national staff, who are clearly suffering as a consequence of non-payment of their salaries for some time, will bear with us as we find a means of payment. It is my highest priority.”