Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sophal Ear in the IHT




Sophal Ear in the IHT

Sophal Ear in the IHT

Cambodian-American academic Sophal Ear, who lost his father and brother to the Khmer Rouge, took to the pages of the International Herald-Tribune last week to attack the tribunal. He lists a number of grievances against the court, including high costs, procedural delays, reforms on civil party participation.

If, after four years and $13 million in contributions to the Cambodian government from Japan, the Europe Commission and others, and $76 million in contributions to the United Nations by more than 21 donors, one guilty verdict is all the tribunal has to show, survivors of the Khmer Rouge may just as well consider justice denied.

The cost of the court is obviously a sensitive issue, given that there are so many other sectors of Cambodian society that could benefit from that level of foreign aid. I spoke with Caitlin Reiger of the International Center for Transitional Justice recently, however, and she argued that much of the funding that the tribunal receives is earmarked specifically for these sorts of proceedings, and therefore wouldn't necessarily be available for other purposes in Cambodia.

Ultimately, Ear questions whether high-minded aspirations for the tribunal were ever realistic in Cambodia's current political context, calling the institution "an international and domestic farce", denouement to "a failed 1993 U.N. exercise in democracy that led inexorably toward authoritarianism". 

Ear's short bio at the end of the article notes that he is currently working on a book about "the unintended consequences of foreign aid in Cambodia"; given the tack he takes with this piece, it's certainly possible that the tribunal will have a place in his book.

 

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