As the end of the month approaches and the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal is once again left without money to pay its staff, a government official said the UN Development Program will bear full responsibility for problems arising from its refusal to release funding.
Australia announced last week it was ready to resume funding to the court’s Cambodian side because of “broad progress” in addressing corruption allegations.
The UNDP, however, which handles funds to the court from several donors, including Australia, has refused to release the funds, because corruption allegations have yet to be adequately addressed. All UNDP-managed funds to the court were frozen last year after Cambodian staff alleged that they had to pay kickbacks for their jobs at the tribunal.
“As a government position, we have nothing to do with that. It depends on the donor countries and UNDP,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said of the UNDP’s position Tuesday. “But if something goes wrong with that position, only UNDP takes the whole responsibility,” he added.
The national side of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia must disburse each month about $300,000 to pay its 251 staff. As the court was facing insolvency last month, Japan offered a last-minute donation of $200,000 to cover March pay packets. The problem of paying those wages is looming again this month.
“We are working on the problem, and that’s all I’m going to say,” said ECCC Public Affairs Chief Helen Jarvis.
The Japanese Embassy declined to say whether it might once again offer a donation to the court for April, but an embassy spokesman said in an e-mail that “Japan follows the situation closely in cooperation with other donor countries.”
The UNDP said Tuesday that its position remained unchanged, and that while it was “concerned” for Cambodian staff and their salaries, it could not be held responsible alone.
“[T]here are allegations of corruption and UNDP is not in a position to release the funds until these issues are resolved,” the UNDP said in an e-mailed statement.
“However the funds managed by UNDP are not the only source of funding for the national side of the court. In addition to donors who contribute bilaterally, the government itself has also committed to providing financial support to the national side of the court,” the UNDP statement added.
The Australian request to release its funds came just after the failure of negotiations between Cambodia and the UN on April 8 on a new anti-corruption mechanism at the court.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen said at the time that he had left a proposal on the table but would not come back for further discussions.
Mr Phay Siphan said, however, he was confident talks would resume, but that the UN proposal, which would permit Cambodian staff to report corruption allegations to UN personnel, was not acceptable. The government wants Cambodian staff at the tribunal to only report on possible wrongdoing at the tribunal to the national side of the court.