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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid