Staff on the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s chronically under-funded national side yesterday sent a letter to the tribunal’s administrators with a simple ultimatum: pay us, or replace us.
Court press officer Neth Pheaktra said via email yesterday that 287 staffers had not been paid for December.
“The non-payment is affecting badly our daily life and demoralised us [in our] work,” he wrote, quoting from the letter. “If any news or any source cannot confirm when they get pay and get pay regularly so on, they will consider finding other possibilities to survive by themselves including stopping temporary to work for ECCC.”
According to Pheaktra, budgetary constrictions precluded the renewal of national staff members’ contracts at the beginning of the year, leaving national staffers to work on in hopes of being renewed later.
While the national side of the court has received money from the Cambodian government, and $700,000 from Germany, the money has been earmarked for specific sections and cannot be put toward salaries and benefits.
And while the court is negotiating to receive $300,000 already pledged for December salaries, Pheaktra said, the national side hasn’t yet received a single pledge that can go toward paying employees.
“One of the problems is that the main concern is about the political influence on cases 003 and 004,” said Panhavuth Long, a program officer for the Cambodian Justice Initiative.
The interference, he maintained, did little to burnish the tribunal’s reputation as a model for Cambodia’s oft-maligned domestic courts, one of donors’ chief reasons for giving.
“Look at the case of [Mam Sonando’s] Beehive station, look at the case of Boeng Kak lake, look at all the land cases,” he added, noting that recent cases have done little to demonstrate the court’s intended positive impact.
In spite of recent large cash injections to the international side, it also continues to pinch pennies – albeit in ways that sometimes seem at odds with other initiatives, as illustrated by two items on the “ECCC Outreach” page in the tribunal’s latest Court Report, released on Monday.
One item trumpeted a landmark in the court’s outreach efforts: To date, it has distributed more than 1,400 radios to civil parties, allowing them to follow the court’s proceedings on a daily basis, no matter where they are in the country.
The second item, however, was more subdued: The court’s weekly radio program, a call-in show called Khmer Rouge on Trial, has been suspended due to budgetary concerns.
Annual operating costs for the show were budgeted at $50,000.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at firstname.lastname@example.org