Three weeks into a strike by 150 Cambodian staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal over unpaid wages, undisclosed donor countries Wednesday threw a lifeline to the cash-strapped court in the form of a loan.
The onus to pay national salaries at the hybrid court falls on the government, which is now expected to repay the loan that has been made on a “strictly reimbursable basis,” Lars Olsen, spokesperson for U.N. Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, said in a statement.
“The United Nations has successfully worked with a group of major donors to secure their authorization to make a further loan to the national component of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) for the payment of arrears of national salaries,” the statement says, without elaborating as to which countries had come forward.
“The United Nations underlines that the only sustainable solution to the lack of funding for the salaries of national staff is for the Royal Government of Cambodia to meet its obligation to pay them,” the statement says. “Any further strikes could risk delaying the judicial proceedings and jeopardize the Court’s ability to function.”
When asked which countries had provided the bridging loan to the court, Mr. Lars said he did not know.
The mystery loan comes after the U.N.’s special expert on the trials, David Scheffer, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly appealed for donor countries to help fund the national side of the court, against which allegations of corruption have long been leveled.
The strike by Cambodian staff at the court, the second this year, began on September 1, after the wages of 250 staff for the months of June, July and August were not paid.
Despite the immediate lifeline provided by the loan, the court continues to face a significant shortfall in funds that comes at a time when proceedings in the first segment of Case 002 are nearing the crucial end stages.
In an email, court spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the bridging loan amounted to $1.15 million and that it would be repaid using other donor funds to the national side of the court.
“The government will reimburse this loan when the national side secures its funds for the operation [of the court],” he said. The court still needs $1.8 million to see it through the end of the year, he added.