The UN fell $4.5 million short of its goal to raise $43 million for a future Khmer Rouge tribunal at a pledging conference in New York on Monday, mere days after the government announced it was slashing its own contribution to the long-awaited trial.
A total $38.48 million was pledged by 13 countries. But some countries, such as Britain, said their pledges were dependent upon their national budgets. Others, such as South Korea, said their pledges were for the first year of the tribunal and further commitments would only be made later.
“By your generous contributions today, you can send a message that the international community will do its part to ensure that, however late, and however imperfect, impunity will not remain unchallenged,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was quoted by the UN as saying on Monday ahead of the pledging session.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, the UN had said pledges for the full $56.3-million tribunal budget had to be secured and funding for the first year deposited in the bank before the three-year tribunal could begin.
Five countries—Australia, Canada, France, Japan and Britain—had promised to contribute $29 million to the trial before Monday’s session.
An additional sum of about $9 million was raised on Monday following pledges from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Sweden.
According to an agreement between the UN and Cambodia, $43 million of the tribunal’s $56.3-million budget will be paid by the international community while Cambodia agreed to contribute the remaining $13.3 million.
The government, however, announced Friday that it would only be able to pay $1.5 million and appealed to the international community to help Cambodia cover its contribution to the trial.
“We are appealing to interested states to assist Cambodia in meeting its allocated share of the budget,” Om Yentieng, adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and a member of the government’s Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, told foreign diplomats at the meeting on Friday.
Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
No mention of Cambodia’s stated inability to pay for the tribunal was made in statements released by the UN press department or donor countries following Monday’s meeting.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also made no mention of Cambodia’s new position on its contribution during his opening speech.
Minister of Justice and a member of the government’s tribunal task force, Ang Vong Vathana, said Monday that he was confident that the tribunal’s funding will be covered.
But he declined to discuss how the government’s $13.3 contribution would be managed.
Lao Mong Hay of the Center for Social Development said if the government is serious about holding a trial, it should be able to find ways to come up with its share.
“It’s not too late. I would think it is just another challenge,” Lao Mong Hay said, adding that whether the government is serious about holding a trial has long been “questionable.”
The government’s stated inability to cover its share of the costs only highlights such concerns.
Canadian Ambassador Donica Pottie said New Zealand and the European Union had not yet announced their contributions and was hopeful the two entities may cover the tribunal’s budget shortfall.
“To have so much of the money donated in one afternoon…I think it’s a good news story,” Pottie said.
Commenting on Cambodia’s portion of the trial costs, Pottie said: “Somehow the money will be found.”
Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said there are several options available for dealing with the shortfall, such as appealing to the business community for donations or trimming back the tribunal’s budget.
“I think they should look to private businesses,” Youk Chhang said. “A lot of tycoons have benefited from the government’s policies and could contribute. I think people would come forward.”
But even with the shortfall, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is closer to becoming a reality, he added.
“It’s finally a considerable amount that has been cleared,” Youk Chhang said. “We’re finally going to do something about this.”
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)