Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Rouge tribunal interns push for pay



Khmer Rouge tribunal interns push for pay

ECCC interns protested yesterday demanding to get paid for their internships at the United Nations. Photo supplied
ECCC interns protested yesterday demanding to get paid for their internships at the United Nations. Photo supplied

Khmer Rouge tribunal interns push for pay

More than 30 United Nations interns at the Khmer Rouge tribunal staged a short-term “strike” yesterday in response to a call by the Global Intern Coalition for an end to the “exploitative and exclusionary” practice of unpaid internships.

The interns gathered for an hour in the cafeteria of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to express discontent with their status as unpaid staffers. The UN has a longstanding policy of offering only unremunerated internships, claiming budgetary constraints prohibit it from offering interns monetary compensation.

According to Mark Websted, one of the striking interns, yesterday’s action was meant to call attention to the fact that unpaid work excludes potential interns from low-income backgrounds.

“We’re very fortunate that … we’re able to sustain ourselves [when interning at the ECCC] while other people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds don’t have this opportunity,” Websted said.

He stressed that the strike action was not aimed at any supervisors working at the ECCC but against the “systemic inequality in terms of access and redistribution of resources”.

But according to some The Post spoke to yesterday, interns often carry as much of the workload as full-time employees.

“The court itself was underfunded and unstaffed and interns were used as the beasts of burden,” said Scott Bywater, who worked as an intern coordinator at the court about five years ago.

Meanwhile, one ex-intern, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that interns received little institutional support when they arrive in the country. “We received … a letter to present to immigration to get a free NGO visa, other than that, and a map of the free bus routes to get to the court, we received very little,” the intern said.

“I arranged housing before I arrived via a Facebook group for interns, but many stay at guesthouses until they meet others in the same situation.”

The need for work experience continues to make internships appealing to students and recent graduates working to build their careers. But an unpaid position with the ECCC doesn’t guarantee a job, others noted.

According to Bridget Di Certo, who worked in the co-prosecutor’s office, a court internship is only worth as much as your future employer thinks it is.

“It depends on how much your future employers value the internship experience. Some international organisations value it very highly,” Di Certo said. (Disclosure: Di Certo worked for a time as a Post reporter following her time at the court.)

Speaking yesterday, Victor Koppe, a defence lawyer at the court, expressed his support for the striking interns.

“I think their actions are completely justified,” Koppe said. “Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it since it’s UN policy.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration