People Become Disillusioned and Apathetic about the Clambering Khmer Rouge Tribunal
Posted by khmernews on July 2, 2007
Observers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, ordinary Cambodian people, and civil society organizations’ officials have shown their concerns on the deadlock in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and don’t want to know about that ‘useless’ thing anymore after news broke out that the UNDP’s officials and Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s administrative officials met in a meeting last weekend to discuss the possibility of Cambodian staff’ salary cut of 45 per cent. Some of the Cambodian officials have warned to walk out since Cambodian staff, judges, and prosecutors have the same roles and responsibilities like those of the international staff, judges and prosecutor too, but the salaries are far different.
The complicated riddle on the salary has happened after the problem over the fee of foreign lawyer registration ended a few months ago, which allowed the adoption of the internal rules. After the internal rules of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal have been adopted, there comes another distressful problem of salary cut of Cambodian staff, judges and prosecutors. To say, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, on which US$56.3 million has been planned to spend, is becoming worthless. It could be said that the efforts of the UN and the government of Cambodia for many years have been spent on somewhat of a light-hearted game.
Pong Chhiv Kek, President of the LICADHO (Cambodian League for the Promotion of Human Rights) said that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal needed both national and international personnel, and she have been worried after she heard that the national judges would walk out due to the salary cut. “I’ve heard that they are not satisfied with this and will walk out. If they walk out, it means the deadlock in the tribunal,” she said. Most of the former victims of the Khmer Rouge regime have expressed their hopelessness for justice since the tribunal has, so far, faced a lot of obstacles while some of the former Khmer Rouge leaders have died one after another.
Concerning the budgetary crisis in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said that that was an old issue because the UN and donors had advised Cambodia since the beginning to ensure that there were enough budgets for the process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for three years.
“The first question is whether Cambodia will accept the previous request and try to find funds from private foundations and donors or not. The second question is whether the staff recruitment is in the right time or not since some offices haven’t had tasks to perform yet,” said Youk Chhang.
However, Cambodian staff, judges and prosecutors are not happy for the plan to reduce 45 per cent of their current salaries which are already far behind those of the international staff, judges and prosecutor. At the moment, it’s not sure whether the plan could be carried out or not. According to a Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s official, Cambodian staff receive salaries from $300 to $2,500, but the salaries are only half of those of the international staff, judges and prosecutor, and the materials used in the office and on missions are not equal too.
Several days ago, Khmer Rouge Tribunal Spokesman Reach Sambath claimed that the trials on former Khmer Rouge leaders would be able to start in 6 months time in early 2008.
But, according to the present situation, the trials on former Khmer Rouge leaders may not be able to process as planned due to the budgetary shortfalls which are becoming as a crucial obstacle in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s process. The plan to cut the salaries of Cambodian staff, judges and prosecutors means the end of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.
Observers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal have complained that the Extraordinary Chambers should have run smoothly after the problems of foreign lawyer registration fee and the internal rules were solved. In contrast, that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is facing another deadlock due to financial problem makes Cambodian people become tired of and apathetic about the word “Extraordinary Chambers”. It can be said that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is not an interesting subject for Cambodian people anymore since there is no sign for when the Khmer Rouge Tribunal can start to find justice for 1.7 million Cambodian people who died during the Killing Fields from 1975 to early 1979.
Former Khmer Rouge leaders have been condemned for crimes of killing more than 1.7 million Cambodian during their reign of terror from April 17, 1975 to early January, 1979. At present, former senior Khmer Rouge leaders including Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Ieng Thirith, and Khieu Samphan are aging and some of them are even with serious illnesses. Therefore, if there is any more delay, those former Khmer Rouge leaders may die before the trials take place and the efforts of the UN and the government of Cambodia will become useless.
Various groups assume that the budgetary crisis will make the trials on the former Khmer Rouge leaders continue to get stuck and Cambodian people will not see justice for victims too since the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has been established only for the international and national staff, judges and prosecutors to spend money not ‘very happily’.
-Extracted from Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, vol.14, #3071, Tuesday, June 26, 2007.