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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Law holdup puts KR trials on ice

Law holdup puts KR trials on ice

Law holdup puts KR trials on ice

Prime Minister Hun Sen wasn't joking when he declared on September 15 that Cambodia

has no money to fund the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, that it will all have to come from

donors.

The Cambodian Government Khmer Rouge Taskforce Secretariat is broke and half the

staff haven't been paid for six months. Only those on the government payroll have

been getting wages; the rest are volunteers.

Cambodia is still waiting for money from supportive donor nations. The only donation

so far is from Australia, which gave $2.2 million, but all of that went to the UN's

budget. Australia has funded two small KRT projects - a legal compendium and public

booklet -but that did not include any wages provision.

Helen Jarvis, an adviser to the secretariat chairman Sok An, said: "The secretariat

has had no money, apart from Government salaries to civil servants, since donor funding

ceased in March."

Some of the major preparations for the tribunal are virtually frozen until the enabling

legislation is ratified by the National Assembly. This has now been put on the agenda

for the assembly meeting on Monday October 4.

The assembly will be asked to approve amendments to 29 articles to bring the law

into line with the tribunal agreement between the government and the UN.

Other matters held up by the lack of passage of the law include a visit from the

UN co-ordinating team for the tribunal to finalise budgetary issues' and a report

to the UN General Assembly by the Secretary General Kofi Annan.

KRT specialist Craig Etcheson says the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong's

planned meeting with Annan in New York, is also going to be about money.

"He's going to ask for some of the KRT startup constraints to be eased. What

this means is that, because of embarrassing financial situations in the past with

these tribunals, the UN has a policy of requiring two years of funding in the bank

before commencement," Etcheson said.

"They have relied on pledges in the past and when they don't materialise people

cannot be paid.

"I understand the Minister will be asking for an easing of that policy."

Etcheson said the forward progress towards a tribunal was "fairly typical of

anything in Cambodia involving the government: it moves very slowly. Everything has

to go through the Council of Ministers. It's a bottleneck."

Hun Sen's declaration that Cambodia could not provide anything but the meeting hall,

power and water, was nothing new. "The government has always made its position

clear in this regard. It's a poor country, dependent on foreign aid donations,"

said Etcheson.

Etcheson said nothing would move until the KRT law was ratified, then donors would

put their cards on the table. "There will be financial support for the tribunal

but I'm not sure how all the funding will materialise. The last I heard they were

still talking $57-60 million."

He said he expected Kofi Annan's forthcoming report to the UN would repeat what he's

said in the past criticizing delays with the legal ratification and urging donors

to be generous.

Karsten Herrell, co-ordinator for UN Assistance to the KRT, had planned to bring

a team to Phnom Penh for budget talks on August 23, but this was postponed firstly

by the UN and then cancelled by the Cambodian Government until after ratification

of the agreement by the National Assembly, Herrell told the Post.

"We hope that happens soon and that the final consultations on the budget can

take place. In the meantime, the Secretary-General's report to the General Assembly

is being prepared, which will give a full assessment of the situation from the UN

perspective."

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