One of Washington's top diplomats finally opens the purse strings, saying the US wants more of a voice among donors to the court
Youk Chhang (right), director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, talks to US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte during a visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on Tuesday.
THE United States will provide US$1.8 million this year to the near-bankrupt Khmer Rouge tribunal, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Tuesday.
In Cambodia for a three day visit, America's second-highest-ranking diplomat told reporters that the progress made by the UN-backed court in arresting suspects and preparing to open public trials had prompted Washington to free up the funds.
"We think it's a good time to go ahead [with funding] and as a result we will have a voice along with the other donors," he said, adding that the US expects to be "active among donors to the tribunal to ensure that it continues to improve its management and address the issue of corruption".
Negroponte said the US government "definitely" plans to follow up with additional funds and has "included a proposal in the [US government] budget for future years, so that continued contributions be made to the court".
"In future fiscal years we hope to be able to continue to make contributions and hopefully even increase their size," he said.
Negroponte added that the money was for the United Nations side of the hybrid court, which is expected to run out of funds in December.
The court has recently tripled its budgets request, but donors have been reluctant to commit more funds amid allegations of graft that are currently being reviewed by the UN in New York.
Some Cambodian court staff have accused their bosses of demanding a percentage of their salaries each month - allegations that international court judges called "troubling" during their biannual meeting earlier this month.
"There have been some issues about the management of the court but they have not risen to the level where we felt that it justified withholding any contribution to the court any further," Negroponte said.
Court spokesman Reach Sambath said the size of the contribution was relatively small, but essential to the court, which faces a $40 million shortfall over the next three years.
"If you don't have money in your pocket, even one dollar is valuable," he said.
Peter Foster, spokesman for the UN side of the tribunal, said the funding has not been earmarked for any specific office. "It will contribute to the day-to-day operations of the tribunal," he said.
Negroponte also urged the Cambodian and Thai governments to resolve their border dispute bilaterally, warning of the negative economic consequences of armed conflict amid reports that both sides were continuing a military buildup along the frontier.
He described relations between Cambodia and the United States as being at a "high point" and said both sides were looking for ways to deepen their bilateral ties, including more military cooperation.