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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid