PHNOM PENH —
The new US ambassador to Cambodia, William A. Heidt, says the US is currently looking at how much it can contribute to the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The UN-backed court has struggled financially, as it enters nearly a decade of operation. The US has been a major donor to the court, which has budgeted for nearly $60 million over the next two years.
In an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer, Heidt said the Obama administration and Congress are discussing further funding.
“That was the darkest era in Cambodia's history,” Heidt, whose wife is Cambodian, told VOA Khmer. “Those four years, they continue to affect the country today, in big ways and small ways. We’ll never know some of the personal trauma.”
Democratic Kampuchea leaders and members of the Standing Committee of the Central Commitee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). Facing foward from the left, Pol Pot, CPK Secretary and Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea, Nuon Chea, Deputy Secretary of the CPK and DK President of the People Representative Assembly, Ieng Sary, Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, Son Sen, Deputy Prime Minister for Defense, and Vorn Vet, Deputy Prime Minister for Economy, in 1977. The photo was taken by a Khmer Rouge photographer (name is unknow), at Pochentong Intetnational Airport, Phnom Penh. (Documentation Center of Cambodia Archives)
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the budget has been approved by donor countries, for $58.8 million over 2016 and 2017, with some donor countries already providing funding.
But the tribunal needs to also think about spending for the mental health of Khmer Rouge survivors and the families of victims, he said. “Even when the court is done, we’ll still have other work, such as healing emotional wounds and reconciling between perpetrators and victims.”
Meanwhile, the tribunal is preparing to continue the second phase of Case 002, against former leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who are facing charges of atrocity crimes, including genocide. That case could be done by the end of the year.
Bou Meng, a Khmer Rouge survivor and civil party complainant, said some people are disappointed so far with the results of the court, including a decision for “collective,” rather than individual, compensation.
Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, says some survivors feel they have not participated enough in the cases, and some fear that cases 003 and 004, which would require more indictments and a longer court timeline, won’t be prosecuted.