Victims Unit Gets New Chief, But Recruitment Process Remains Hazy

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has appointed Rong Chhorng, the acting chief of its victim support section, to a permanent position, making him the unit’s third director in the space of little more than a year, tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said yesterday.

Mr Sambath also confirmed the hiring of Pich Ang as the Cambodian lead civil party lawyer and Im Sophea, the former co-director of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, as the victims unit’s head of outreach.

With Mr Chhorng’s new appointment, he will step down from his second job as the court’s director of personnel but continue to serve as secretary-general of the National Committee for Population and Development at the Council of Ministers.

It remained unclear yesterday whether Mr Chhorng’s position had been competitively recruited. Mr Sambath declined to comment directly on this but noted that Mr Chhorng was appointed by acting Director of Administration Tony Kranh in accordance with the ECCC Law.

“Rong Chhorng, he has been working as the acting head of VSS for two months, so that is why the acting director decided to appoint him,” Mr Sambath said. “We don’t advertise but we have informed a lot of people about it.”

Mr Chhorng took up his post two months ago after two predecessors quit in little more than a year. Helen Jarvis, who resigned in May, replaced Keat Bophal in May 2009 after Ms Bophal abruptly resigned for undisclosed reasons.

Mr Chhorng yesterday declined to answer questions on how he was hired.

“It is the court’s internal issue–there is no need to tell you how they choose,” he said. “This is interfering in other people’s business.”

He said his other job at the population council would not affect his work at the ECCC.

“I have a position at the Council of Ministers…but I do not go to work over there,” he said. “I work full-time at the court and my deputy is working on my behalf for me.”

As part of a human resources reform effort in 2007, the tribunal’s Cambodian side adopted a personnel handbook, according to which vacant positions must be competitively recruited “in all cases.”

However, Mr Chhorng said in July that the handbook may not be used in all cases and that appointments could be made upon nomination by administrators such as Mr Kranh.

Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said yesterday that the court should “follow its own rules” regarding competitive recruitment.

“It has now been two heads that resigned from the victims unit and it’s very clear that more needs to be done,” he added. “If we keep repeating the same mistake, it’s disrespectful to the victims. I do not wish or expect another mistake from the court. It has already been a failed unit.”

Mr Sophea, the new director of outreach, replaces Neou Kassie, who left in June after his contract was not renewed over his objection. Although civil party lawyer Kim Mengkhy applauded the appointment, he said lawyers had been struggling to meet their clients and submit crucial information forms without the assistance of an outreach coordinator.

“It seems a bit late–he should have been appointed two months ago,” he said.

ECCC spokesman Mr Sambath said that new civil party lead co-lawyer Pich Ang would start work on Oct 1. An international lead co-lawyer will be selected very soon, he added.

         (Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)


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