Friday, September 30, 2005

Cambodia seeks more funds from Japan for Khmer Rouge trial

(Kyodo) _ Prince Norodom Ranariddh said Wednesday that Cambodia and the United Nations will not be able to begin a planned international criminal tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders unless Japan pays at least half of the required $56 million.

"If Japan does not finance half of the budget, we will not be able to start the trial," Prince Ranariddh, president of the National Assembly, told reporters. He said U.N. officials have expressed concerns over funding for the tribunal.

A Japanese diplomat in Phnom Penh said the Khmer Rouge trial is not an issue involving Japan but rather an agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia.

Japan has already pledged $3 million for the tribunal, the diplomat said.

"I have not heard any further information on financial support from my government, except the previous pledge of $3 million as already reported by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan," he said.

Sean Visoth, executive secretary of the government's Khmer Rouge tribunal task force, echoed the view of the prince.

"Without Japan's contribution, it will be very hard to start the planned trial," Sean Visoth said.
He said Annan will meet with a group of countries that support the trial in New York on Friday to brief them on the trial issue and to make an appeal for funding.

Last Friday, the United Nations and Cambodia finalized the budget for the three-year tribunal, with the United Nations to spend $43 million and Cambodia covering the remaining $13 million.

So far, France and Japan have expressed intentions to make voluntary contributions of $1 million and $3 million, respectively, for the first year of the tribunal, while Australia has pledged A$3 million (about US$2.1 million).

After six years of negotiations, Cambodia and the United Nations signed an agreement in June 2003 to set up the tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity during the regime's 1975-1979 reign of terror.

They are blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million people.

All three surviving top Khmer Rouge leaders -- Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea -- are in their late 70s and live freely in the country. Supreme Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

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