Friday, December 16, 2005

Gov’t To Open Account for KR Trial Donations

By Lee Berthiaume
The Cambodia Daily
Friday, December 16, 2005

The government plans to open a bank account to allow private citizens to make contributions to help pay for Cambodia’s share of the $56.3-million Khmer Rouge tribunal budget, the tribunal’s coordinator Sean Visoth said Thursday.

“Now we are talking about getting an account in a bank to put the money and the $1 million from India,” Sean Visoth said, reiterating his statements in recent weeds that the government will accept donations from anyone who wants to help contributed to Cambodia’s $10.8-million budge shortfall.

“We are waiting for permission [to open the account] from the Ministry of Economy and Finance,” he said.

Sean Visoth did not give a time frame for when the bank account might be open for donations, but he said that he could accept inquiries from potential donors in the meantime.

“Any amount of money will be accepted, even 100 riel,” he said.

Kong Vibol, a secretary of state at the Finance Ministry, said he was too busy to discuss the issue with a reporter on Thursday.

According to an agreement between the UN and Cambodia, the international community will pay $43 million for the tribunal and Cambodia will pay the remaining $13.3 million. But the government has said it can only afford to contribute $1.5 million of that figure, and has been actively appealing to donors for help.

So far, India is the only country that has responded to the government’s appeal.

On June 8, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government would not hold a fundraiser or solicit help from private businesses for the Khmer Rouge tribunal because most Cambodians make barely enough to live.

More recently, Sean Visoth has said the government never said it wouldn’t accept donations that are offered independently.

Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he knew of many people who would like to contribute to the trial.

But he added that there will need to be more transparency around the budget and how people’s contributions will be used.

“If people want to help, I think they should be able to,” he said. “It gives some ownership. But people should know where their money is going.”

The government should also do more to encourage such donations for the tribunal.

“I think they should make a formal request,” he said, adding that he was disheartened by continuous attempts to wring money from foreign countries. “Other options should be explored,” he said.

Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, agreed that anyone who wants to contribute, especially Cambodians living abroad, should be able to.

But she added that there would have to be ways to guarantee the money would be used for its intended purpose. “How do they ensure that the money given for the tribunal will be used for the tribunal?” she asked.

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