With just days until closing arguments at the Khmer Rouge tribunal are slated to begin, Prime Minister Hun Sen made a direct request to US Secretary of State John Kerry for increased funding to the cash-strapped court, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport, Secretary of State Kao Kim Hourn said the premier also approached UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with similar requests in meetings on the sidelines of this month’s ASEAN summit in Brunei, however received no firm commitments.
“Hun Sen has requested to the US [secretary of state] about the financial support for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, and the US [secretary of state] said he would consider this request,” Kim Hourn said.
Meanwhile, national-side staffers at the court have gone without pay again this month, this time directly on the heels of an emergency loan from the UN last month that ended a weeks-long strike by paying most workers their back salaries for June, July and August.
However, court spokesman Neth Pheaktra expressed optimism that a solution could be found before workers resort once again to strikes.
“This is an effort for both sides to support the ECCC,” Pheaktra said of the meeting between Ban and Hun Sen. “We strongly believe that . . . talks between Samdech Hun Sen and the secretary-general will find a solution to the financial problems of the national side of the court.”
According to one national side staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, given the lack of results “it is obviously insane to keep striking time and again”, but staying at the court would be little better.
“If the situation surrounding the pay does not improve in due course, it is most likely that some interpreters will tender their resignation and start looking for new, more secure jobs,” he added. “It appears to them that future job prospects at the court have become less favourable and less secure.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE AND JOE FREEMAN