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Tribunal Delegation Meets in New York

A three-member delegation from the Office of Administration of the Khmer Rouge tribunal met with ambassadors and representatives from over 20 donor countries at the United Nations headquarters in New York Thursday to plan for the future of the cash-strapped courts.

Speaking by telephone with VOA Khmer from New York, tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said the three members of the delegation include chief of the Office of Administration Sean Visoth and the chief of Budget and Finance.

"The purpose of this meeting is to look at the review of what the ECCC has been doing and the forward planning," Jarvis said, referring to the tribunal by its official name, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Robert O. Varenik, acting executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, told VOA Khmer by telephone that the meeting is an important one.

"The ECCC is at a really critical juncture, with funds for Cambodian salaries expected to run out by the end of April," he said. "So it's critical donors and the Cambodian government and the United Nations to come together to create a realistic budget that can allow the chamber to go forward."

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said although the tribunal has encountered many problems in the past, it is still very efficient compared to other international tribunals.

"Look at Yugoslavia," he said. "They spent $170 million a year. We've spent less than $20 million a year."

But Varenik said the budget is not the only issue.

"The other issues are what would the court look like, and how it would operate," he said. "It's a significant amount of money; it's an enormous responsibility for everyone, given the importance of getting a measure of justice for these crimes."

The hybrid, UN-backed tribunal was expected to last 3 years and cost $56.3 million. But now court officials say they need an additional $114 million and expect the trial to last until 2011.