Khmer Rouge Tribunal Halts Salaries For Cambodians

Published January 26, 2012 9:00AM (EST)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — About 300 Cambodians working at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal will not be paid this month — and some haven't been paid since October — due to budget problems, a spokesman said Thursday.

The tribunal, which is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or torture during the communist Khmer Rouge's 1970s rule, employs 480 people, of which about two-thirds are Cambodian.

International staff are paid by the United Nations and will continue to receive salaries, unlike local staff who are paid by the Cambodian government.

Huy Vannak, a tribunal spokesman, said that Cambodian judges and prosecutors stopped receiving salaries in October, while the remainder who do mostly administrative work will not be paid this month.

The government relies on contributions from donor countries to finance its tribunal expenses but the donations have dried up, he said.

"Despite the fact that no key donor countries have pledged any new financial assistance, the court pursues its work as normal," he said.

David Scheffer, the U.N. special expert to the tribunal, made a four-day visit to the country that ended Wednesday.

He said it was repeatedly brought to his attention that "certain Cambodian staff had not received their salary since October."

"This is great concern for the Cambodian staff," Scheffer told reporters. "I made this point very directly in my meeting with government officials."

The tribunal opened its offices in early 2006 after years of wrangling between the Cambodian government and the world body. Trials were originally projected to end by 2009 but have dragged on, causing costly delays.

The court's first verdict came last year when former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav was sentenced to 35 years in prison for war crimes, crimes against humanity and other offenses. Three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of orchestrating Cambodia's "killing fields" went on trial in late November.

The tribunal's original budget was set at about $50 million but the total expenditure from 2006-2011 has been estimated at $150 million, the court said.

By Salon Staff

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