US seeks role in Cambodian KRouge trials
Friday, January 18, 2008
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — The United States wants an advisory role in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal and would consider helping fund the cash-strapped court if given the post, a Cambodian official said Thursday.
The offer was made during talks with the US State Department's Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, said Kao Kim Huorn, a secretary of state with the foreign ministry.
"The US requested that Cambodia create another post -- a special advisor to help the Khmer Rouge tribunal," Kao Kim Huorn said after meeting with top US officials.
"This is a condition if Cambodia wants the US to provide funds for the tribunal. Cambodia is considering the request," he added, saying the advisor's role was under discussion.
The United States is a key Cambodian donor but has not pledged funding for the 56.3 million-dollar tribunal established to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
"The US is worried about the independence and standards of the court," Kao Kim Huorn said.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle could not be reached for comment on the offer. Marciel is in Cambodia through Friday to meet top government officials.
The UN-backed tribunal has come under fire amid allegations of political interference, corruption and fiscal mismanagement.
Sean Visoth, Cambodia's top administrator to the tribunal, declined to comment on the offer, which comes at a crucial time for the court.
Already burdened by a multimillion-dollar shortfall when it opened in 2006, the tribunal is set to run out of funds by March without another cash injection from the international community.
Court officials have said they would embark on a major fund-raising drive early this year as the prosecution of former regime leaders looks set to go forward.
Five top cadre have been arrested so far, with the first trials expected to begin in mid-2008.
Up to two million people died of starvation, disease and overwork, or were executed under the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge, which emptied Cambodia's cities, exiling millions to vast collective farms in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.
Schools, religion and currency were outlawed and the educated classes targeted for extermination by the communists.
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