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Cambodian Side of Tribunal Receives Funding

The Japanese government on Thursday announced a funding infusion of $4.1 million to the beleaguered Cambodian side of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, providing enough for staff salaries for the months of April and May as the court undertakes its first trial.

Many donors have proven reluctant to fund the Cambodian side of the court, which they say has not fully addressed allegations of corruption.

But the bilateral donation from Japan will ensure the tribunal can proceed with the trial of Duch, former chief of Tuol Sleng prison, who has been in court since March 30 facing atrocity crimes charges.

UN and Cambodian negotiators failed to reach an agreement in April on how allegations of kickbacks and other corruption should be handled, with the UN side maintaining the importance of anonymity in complaints.

The UNDP, which handles funding for the court, has refused to release money from donors until the allegations are dealt with.

That has led to a critical shortage in the Cambodian budget at the court, with Japan giving $200,000 in March to help pay staff salaries.

This week’s $4.1 million “will cover the shortfall of the Cambodian side of the ECCC’s operational costs,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement, referring to the tribunal by its initials, for Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath declined to comment on the funding, but he confirmed that staff have been told their April and May salaries will be received in the third or fourth week of May.

Observers say that despite the corruption allegations, international donors are loath to see the special court fail, especially now that Duch is on trial.

Both France and Japan have praised the progress of the court and have urged the UN and Cambodia to reach agreement on handling corruption.

For now, the two sides are implementing a parallel structure, where complaints on the Cambodian side move through Cambodian channels, and the UN handles complaints made on its side.