WASHINGTON DC - Cambodian staff at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal are threatening to go on strike over unpaid wages.
About 250 staff members, including judges and prosecutors, have not been paid since June. About 100 of them say they will stop their work on Sunday unless they are paid.
The crisis has prompted U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to issue a statement appealing for more money. His statement said "the very survival of the court is now in question," and "financial failure would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia."
Cambodian government spokesman Ek Tha also appealed to the international community to provide more funds, saying Phnom Penh has paid enough.
“I hope the donors will continue the funding to Cambodian side because we cannot pay more on the tribunal than the expenses we spend on the Supreme Court and Appeals Court of Cambodia," he said. "It’s impossible to do that because we have spent 257 percent and 300 percent of our budget on what we spent on local courts. The Cambodian government, I would say, has spent $16.9 million since 2006. It’s extremely too much.”
The court has faced several funding problems since its founding in 2006, including a staff strike over unpaid wages in March of this year.
Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman of Khmer Rouge Tribunal, told VOA Khmer that if a new strike takes place, it will cause trouble for the tribunal.
“Some of the work that we plan to do, such as some documents that need to be translated, and the issuance of the closing statement, will be stalled or delayed because of a lack of resources," he said.
The court was set up to prosecute the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which is blamed for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians during its bloody rule four-year rule in the late 1970s.
So far, the court has only handed down one conviction, and the advanced age of the remaining defendants has cast doubt on the prospects finishing its job while they are still alive, or able to participate in their trials for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, both in their 80s, are the only senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive and considered fit to stand trial. They deny the charges. The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998, and co-founder Ieng Sary died earlier this year.
Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced last year to life in prison for his role in killing more than 14,000 while running the Tuol Sleng torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.