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Japan May Help Funding Woes for Cambodian Tribunal

U.N.-assisted Cambodian genocide tribunal judges, Motoo Noguchi, center, of Japan, and Cambodians Sim Rith, left, and Ya Narin, Phnom Penh, Sept. 1, 2008 (file photo)
Japan may allow some of its contributions to the international side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to be used to pay salaries of striking workers on the cash-strapped Cambodian side of the court.

The announcement comes a day after about 200 Cambodian staff at the U.N.-backed court walked off the job after not being paid since May. A tribunal spokesman said Tuesday the striking staff has yet to return to work.

The Cambodian side of the court, short by nearly $3 million in funding, has been dealing with allegations of mismanagement, corruption and kickbacks since its inception in 2006.

"Japan might allow the Cambodian side to use some of its $3 million contribution to the U.N. side," said Cambodian spokesman Ek Tha. "This is to ensure the operation of the [tribunal] without any suspension."

He made the comments following talks between Cabinet Minister Sok An and Japanese Ambassador Kumamaru Yuji. Japanese officials have not yet publicly commented on the news.

The tribunal was set up to prosecute the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which is blamed for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians during its bloody, four-year rule in the late 1970s.

The court has handed down only one conviction, and the advanced age of the remaining defendants has cast doubt on prospects of finishing its job while they are still alive, or able to participate in their trials for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, both in their 80s, are the only senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive and considered fit to stand trial. They deny the charges. The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, and co-founder Ieng Sary died earlier this year.

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced last year to life in prison for his role in killing more than 14,000 people while running the Tuol Sleng torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA Khmer service.