Notably absent from the 2005 national budget, which was approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday, were provisions for a long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunal, prompting one opposition parliamentarian to question the government’s commitment to prosecuting aging ex-Khmer Rouge leaders.
A final $56.3 million price tag for the UN-backed tribunal was established earlier this month, with the government announcing it would shoulder $13 million.
But the Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission Chairman Cheam Yeap said Thursday that funds were not set aside for the tribunal in the 2005 budget because the UN has not established a date for when the trials will start.
“There is no specific schedule from the UN to prosecute the Khmer Rouge yet. That is why we do not record the budget for the prosecution,” he said.
Lawmakers on Wednesday gave their final approval to allow the government to spend $792 million next year, up $40 million from the 2004 budget.
A reserve of $300 million is included in the 2005 national budget, which will be used in case of natural disasters or in the event of other urgent expenditures, Cheam Yeap said.
Though the tribunal costs are not included in the national budget, the government can use some of those reserve funds to pay for trials if the UN sets a start date, he said.
Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy charged that the exclusion indicated that the government may put the tribunal on hold, citing lack of funds.
“It is clear the government does not want to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leaders,” he said Thursday. “The government should make clear in the budget how much money the government will spend…to prosecute the Khmer Rouge.”
Calls to Sean Visoth, the secretary-general for the government’s tribunal task force, were unsuccessful on Thursday.