Cambodian court officials vow to stamp out corruption, but new 'ethics monitors' will not address graft allegations under review by the UN
A tourist looks at photographs in Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh. Former prison leader Duch is set to go on trial in September.
OFFICIALS at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal maintain that newly implemented oversight rules would curb corruption at the UN-backed court, but acknowledged that the regulations were vague and would not address the serious graft allegations currently under review by a UN body in New York.
"We are talking about the future," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said on Saturday, when asked if the new measures would address pre-existing allegations.
He was speaking a day after the court named Chief Cambodian Judge Kong Srim and tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis as "ethics monitors".
He said the new positions were proof of the court's willingness to deal with any new graft head-on amid reports of donor uneasiness over the allegations of financial mismanagement.
"[Top Cambodian court official Sean Visoth] has put his career at stake to show that Cambodia is willing to put in place anti-corruption measures," he said.
"We don't have to disturb the donors any more," he added. "Cambodia can work by itself to fight corruption."
The appointments were made as the beleaguered tribunal faces another round of scrutiny over allegations that some Cambodian staff had to kick back a percentage of their salaries to their bosses.
The UN Office of Internal Oversight is reviewing the allegations, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds have been frozen by the UN Development Program.
Cambodia can work by itself to fight corruption.
Neither Jarvis, who was not at Friday's meeting, nor Kong Srim, who began work at the court last month, said they knew exactly what the monitoring position would involve.
Jarvis also said that she knew nothing of the kickback allegations, saying that she had "never seen them", but added that the UN had no legal jurisdiction over graft charges on the Cambodian side of the joint tribunal.
"It is lawful that any reports of wrongdoing by national staff are handled initially by the national side of the court," Jarvis said in an email on Sunday.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has also written a formal complaint to the UN over the review, disputing the world body's jurisdiction over Cambodian operations at the court, but tribunal staff have declined to give details of the correspondence.
The latest upheavals come as the court prepares to try its first defendant, former Khmer Rouge S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, who is more commonly known by his revolutionary name Duch.
Duch was indicted last Tuesday on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, becoming the first of five former regime leaders currently detained by the tribunal to have his case go the trial chambers.
Court officials said last week that potential funding shortfalls at the court would not jeopardise Duch's trial as an emergency infusion of US$2.9 million, pledged to the Cambodian side of the court by Japan before the UNDP froze funds, will be used for Cambodian staff salaries, which went unpaid in July.