Sat, Dec 10, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Cambodia lacks sufficient funds for Khmer Rouge trial

AFP , PHNOM PENH

A nearly US$11 million shortfall continues to hamper efforts to get a long-delayed genocide trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders under way, tribunal administrators said yesterday.

Speaking during a visit by UN officials, Cambodia's top tribunal administrator Sean Visoth said the lack of money to fund the kingdom's portion of the tribunal is keeping the government from filling key positions.

Getting the trial started "depends on how fast the money is forthcoming," he said.

Cambodia still needs US$10.8 million to meet its obligations and has appealed to donors for help.

Another US$43 million has been pledged by the UN and is almost fully subscribed, said UN coordinator Michelle Lee, who arrived on Tuesday for her first meeting with Cambodian officials.

Lee acknowledged the shortfall, saying it was the "principal remaining obstacle" in establishing a tribunal but that the process was moving forward and both sides were cooperating.

"We hope this issue will be resolved in the coming weeks," she said, without indicating whether any donors have agreed to make up the difference.

Lee was speaking as interviews for international judges and co-prosecutors were wrapping up at the UN in New York. Twenty-one candidates were screened and those selected must then be approved by Cambodia.

It is still unknown who the Cambodian candidates are for courtroom posts. Critics of the tribunal have demanded more transparency in the selection process, which they fear will be skewed by political agendas.

Sean Visoth said the criteria for picking Cambodian judges and co-prosecutors will be made public before the appointments are announced.

Up to 2 million people died of overwork, starvation and execution during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule over Cambodia, which it sought to turn into an agrarian utopia by destroying all vestiges of modern life.

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