PM: US ‘Positive’ on KRT Funding

Prime Minister Hun Sen emerged from a meeting with a senior US diplomat on Monday saying they had discussed Cambodia’s border dispute with Thailand and that the US was likely to announce financial support to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

In talks at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, visiting US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte met Monday both with Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and announced $24 million in US bilateral aid to develop the private sector.

Cambodian officials said that, in meetings with both Hun Sen and Hor Namhong, Negroponte had expressed a commitment to funding the Khmer Rouge tribunal but they declined to give details ahead of a news conference scheduled for this morning.

“Let [Negroponte] make the announcement. I think we have achieved a positive result,” Hun Sen told reporters at the ministry. “If we are talking about a pregnant elephant, when she delivers the baby, the baby is big, if we’re talking about the amount of [funding],” he said.

A US Embassy spokesman deferred questions until today’s press conference. Hun Sen also said he had told Negroponte that the Sept 9 dismissal of Thai premier Samak Sundaravej, and that country’s political turmoil, had increased the difficulties of border negotiations with Bangkok.

“I told the US partner that…we will try to prevent gunfire but we also told him of the possibility that we will bring the case before the international court. In case of gunfire, we told him about the matter because the US is a member of the Security Council,” Hun Sen said.

“Because of the Thai crisis, the discussions have a problem. There is no prime minister. There is no channel to work,” Hun Sen said. “I told the US Deputy Secretary of State that there is no channel to discuss who ordered the soldiers to Ta Krabey temple, Ta Moan temple,” he added.

Thai and Cambodian forces agreed Thursday to pull back from the disputed Ta Krabey temple along the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province. However Thai forces remain only 300 meters away, Cambodian military officials said.

In an e-mail received Monday, the Thai Foreign Ministry said military-to-military talks had reduced tensions and that bilateral negotiations remained preferable.

“[D]iscussions at the bilateral level has achieved results and satisfactory progress. They should therefore continue,” Thani Thongphakdi, a ministry spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.

The renewed prospect of US funding for the court arrives as the Khmer Rouge tribunal faces acute concerns about alleged misconduct and corruption on the Cambodian side.

Graft allegations are now under review by the UN’s inspector general arm in New York. The court’s UN side is also to run out of money before the end of the year while the Cambodian side is now funded only through March. There have been no further contributions since the graft allegations were made public in August.

In the years-long negotiations over the court’s formation, the US played an active and formative role in deciding the shape the court would take.

However US lawmakers have consistently opposed funding the court pending a finding by the State Department that Cambodia’s judiciary is competent and free from both corruption and political influence and that that tribunal meets international fair trial standards.

The tribunal’s Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis said Monday that she had no comment other than that all contributions are welcome.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison and Stephen Kurczy)

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