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Cambodia Asks for Help to Cover Its Share for Khmer Rouge Tribunal


The Cambodian government has called on foreign diplomats in Phnom Penh to help the country pay its share of the costs of a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. Survivors of the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge have waited more than 25 years for justice and the request makes it likely that they will have to wait some more.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An has appealed Monday to diplomatic missions in Phnom Penh to contribute money so that a United Nations-backed tribunal of former leaders of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge can get under way.

Led by Pol Pot, a Maoist zealot on a mission to eradicate Cambodia's money-oriented society, the Khmer Rouge wiped out more than 1.5 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. The victims were murdered, starved to death or died toiling in labor camps.

Pol Pot died in 1997, but several top Khmer Rouge leaders have evaded prosecution and are living freely in Cambodian society, among the families of their victims.

The U.N. had secured nearly $43 million, enough to start setting up the $56-million trial.

But the tribunal process, an on-again, off-again effort by the government and United Nations that has been under way for nearly eight years, has hit another bump in the road.

An agreement hammered out by the government and U.N. earlier this year stipulates Cambodia will provide just over $13 million. But the government now says it is too poor to fulfill its obligation and can only afford a little more than $1 million.

Sean Visoth, secretary to the government's tribunal task force, said the diplomatic missions were told that the trial would not move forward if their countries did not contribute more money.

Like the plane or the bird, he said, to fly they need two wings. One wing is working now, only the other wing has the problem. He says the final hurdle Cambodia needs to jump over is to try to collect $11.8 million.

Sean Visoth said the diplomats did not make any pledges during a meeting on Monday, but that India, Singapore and Thailand showed interest in providing technical support.

He said the European Union is still deciding whether to give the $1.3 million it has pledged to the United Nations or the Cambodian government.

U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray said officials attending the meeting showed interest in understanding the process but that it is uncertain when the tribunal could start.

The United States has said it will not support the tribunal until Cambodia and the United Nations show a commitment to upholding international standards in their selection of judges and prosecutors. The U.S. has cited concerns over Cambodia's corrupt judicial system and problems in the UN's appointment of judges to other international war tribunals.

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