News / Asia

Cambodian War Crimes Court Staff Prepares to Strike

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File photo)
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (File photo)
Robert Carmichael
Around 100 staff members at Cambodia’s cash-strapped war crimes court will begin an open-ended strike Sunday because they have not received their salaries since May. The pending strike has prompted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to call for donations to the court if it is not to collapse.
 
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said none of the 250 Cambodian employees at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has been paid in three months, and their situation has become intolerable.
 
The national side of the court needs $3 million to fund its operations through to the end of the year.
 
Neth Pheaktra said staff at the court - known formally as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC - do not want to strike, and are well aware that this action will effectively halt court proceedings.
 
“The Cambodian staff have the majority in the court and [if] they don’t come to work, it means the function of the court will be blocked. And if no translator, no interpreter, and other section does not work, it means that the work of the ECCC will block - and we take the high risk to delay the process. And we don’t want, but we have no choice because we cannot work without payment,” said Pheaktra.
 
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is a hybrid court with an international component and a national one.
 
The United Nations is responsible for securing funding for the international side. That part of the court has enough money for now.
 
The problem is on the national side - which is the responsibility of the Cambodian government. To date, Phnom Penh has relied on donors to fund the bulk of that work, but, not for the first time, the money has dried up, and that is why the Cambodian staff have not been paid.
 
But for the court to collapse for want of a few million dollars would be an embarrassment for the United Nations. That is one reason U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked countries to donate.
 
Speaking at The Hague Wednesday, Ban said the tribunal had achieved some notable victories.  “Yet today the Court is in crisis. The voluntary contributions on which the Court depends have run dry. The very survival of the Court [is] now in question," he stated. "Financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who have waited so long for justice. It would also be a severe blow to our shared commitment to international justice.”
 
Earlier this month Ban sent his envoy, David Scheffer, to four Asian nations in order to raise funds.
 
In an email to VOA, Scheffer said that the countries he had visited - Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia - were considering financial support. However, there is no indication of when the cash would come, assuming it comes at all.
 
Scheffer said urgent discussions were taking place at U.N. headquarters in New York. He has also asked the Cambodian government to step in and pay national staff.
 
The timing of the strike has come at a key moment. The court is preparing for closing arguments in the first mini-trial of two surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
 
Nuon Chea was Pol Pot’s deputy, while Khieu Samphan was head of state of the regime that is believed responsible for the deaths of two million people between 1975 and 1979.
 
The court recently finished hearing evidence against the two, and is scheduled to hear closing arguments in mid-October.
 
But that date has already been pushed back once, and unless money is found soon for the Cambodian staff, it could well be delayed again.
 
With both men in their eighties - and with fellow defendant Ieng Sary, who was the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, dying during trial earlier this year - the risks of justice delayed are obvious enough.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid