Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said he will ask Japan to help pay for the government’s $13.3-million share of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, in addition to Japan’s already hefty pledge toward the trial.
“I plan to go to Japan next week to ask for Japan’s aid to try the Khmer Rouge,” Hun Sen said, adding that $13 million is “much for Cambodia, but not much for Japan.”
The premier’s comments come days after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the tribunal could move forward in earnest after the international community raised almost $40 million for the trial.
In late March, days before an international pledging conference at the UN’s headquarters in New York, the government announced it would only be able to contribute $1.5 million in cash and $5.2 million as in-kind expenses.
While the UN member nations were to contribute $43 million toward the $56.3 tribunal, the government was responsible for securing the rest of the funds.
“No one wants to try the Khmer Rouge more than us,” Hun Sen told graduating students at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday. “The Khmer Rouge tribunal is coming soon.”
Reached on Tuesday, Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi said he had not yet heard Hun Sen’s speech. But he said the two countries are “always in close contact” when it comes to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
While he would not say whether Japan, which has already pledged $21.6 million for the tribunal, would supply more money, he expressed hope that other countries would step up to help.
“We would like to see that other countries, as many as possible, participate,” Takahashi said. “We would not want to monopolize the tribunal.”
The next largest contributor is France, with $4.8 million.
Sean Visoth, secretary of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal taskforce, said that even though the UN has given the green light, work can’t really start until Cambodia’s share of the funding is covered.
While Sean Visoth also had not heard Hun Sen’s speech, he said some countries have expressed an interest in donating funds for Cambodia, though he would not say which ones, or whether Japan is one of them.
He proposed a second pledging conference similar to the one held on March 28 in which Cambodia would appeal for bilateral help.
“I think we should ask them directly,” he said. “But we will wait and see.”
Documentation Center of Cambodia Director Youk Chhang described the Prime Minister’s speech as “a very historic and important announcement.”
“I’m very glad he made the announcement,” he added. “It shows a willingness and commitment on the government side.”
Nonetheless, Youk Chhang encouraged average Cambodians to keep monitoring and watching the tribunal’s progress until it becomes a reality.
“We should not leave this completely to the UN and government,” he said.