Khmer Rouge trial taps donors for another $114 mln
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" court has trebled its initial budget, seeking an extra $114 million from international donors to continue its pursuit of Pol Pot's top surviving henchmen, a spokesman said on Thursday.
Under the new proposal, the long-awaited tribunal's three-year lifespan would grow by two years, dragging out proceedings until 2011 even though most of the Khmer Rouge's leading cadres are old and in poor health.
Given the problems with finding the court's initial $56 million, the request for such a large sum is unlikely to go down well with donors who already pump $600 million a year into Cambodia's war-scarred but now booming economy.
"We have no choice but to expand," court spokesman Peter Foster told Reuters shortly after the start of a bail hearing for "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, charged last year with war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"I would not call it a delay, but I would call it a more realistic plan," he said.
An estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died of torture, disease or starvation under Pol Pot's 1975-79 reign of terror as his dream of creating an agrarian peasant utopia descended into the nightmare of the "Killing Fields."
After nearly a decade of delays and drawn-out talks with the United Nations, the trial kicked off in earnest last year with charges against Nuon Chea and four other senior cadres.
However, it has long been clear the court was short of cash.
One Phnom Penh-based diplomat said the request for more money had been in the pipeline, but its size was a surprise.
"The original budget was too low and a lot of key elements had not been costed properly, but this is certainly a pretty hefty rise," the diplomat said.
Foster said he hoped countries such as Japan, which has bankrolled much of the proceedings so far, would dig deep to ensure the court achieved the aim of prosecuting "those most responsible" for the atrocities without compromising standards.
Tokyo hopes the trials will expose the full extent of the links between Pol Pot's murderous regime and China, analysts say.
The expanded budget would be mainly for more court staff, and translation and transcription as well as victim and witness support, Foster said. It also suggests prosecutors might widen their net well beyond the five already in custody.
At his bail hearing, the octogenarian Nuon Chea argued he was not a flight risk and would not try to influence potential witnesses. Fears for his safety were also overblown, he said.
"I have no desire to leave my beloved country," he told a courtroom packed with reporters.
He sat impassively as prosecutor Chea Leang outlined her case, arguing that as de facto prime minister and head of the ultra-Maoist regime's standing committee from 1976, Nuon Chea was responsible for policies of forced labor, torture and execution.
The court is not expected to announce its decision for several days, but he is extremely unlikely to be released.
Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998 in the final Khmer Rouge redoubt of Anlong Veng on the Thai border.
Besides Nuon Chea, top cadres now in custody are former president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, and Duch, head of Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng, or "S-21" interrogation and torture centre.
(Reporting by Ek Madra; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Michael Battye and David Fogarty)
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