ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Cop-Out


There is, of course, a difference between a solution and a cop-out. What the UN did to end the strike of the Cambodian staff was the latter: The genius plan to rob Peter (the UN side of the court) to pay Paul (the Cambodian side of the court) (It is not hard to see how arriving at this idea would have taken absolutely elite sophistication in fundraising and finance). This has made two things crystal clear (they were sufficiently clear before but there is absolutely no doubt about them now): (1) the Cambodian government has no commitment to this process and will neither allocate funds from its budget, nor do the fundraising; and (2) as the Cambodians have always said it to be the case, the UN is responsible for all the court’s funding, be it the international side or the Cambodian side.


Lars Olsen seeks to lead us to believe that the Cambodian government will re-pay this loan. I wonder if Lars Olsen believes this himself. Let’s say the Cambodian side does manage to secure finding from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore. It is difficult to imagine this will be a sizable amount (my projection is under half a million dollars). Let’s say the Cambodian government receives this money in October at which point they will owe their staff for September and shortly after for October. Is Lars Olsen telling us that they will take the combined contribution of Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore and put it towards repayment of this loan? It does look like Lars Olsen is testing our credulity here. How do I know this? The answer to this is very simple: The most recent history of the Cambodian government taking a loan from the UN in the same manner, promising to re-pay it in the same manner, and not repaying it. That loan was taken in March and there is absolutely no record of the Cambodian government’s diligence in trying to allocate or secure funding to re-pay it. This is exactly what will happen this time too: The Cambodian side of the court will be on strike again come December and the UN will shell out yet another loan to break it.   


Perhaps, Lars Olsen can also explain why the Cambodian staff are getting paid for being on strike (they took a 3-week vacation and are now getting paid for it with UN money) but I am sure if asked he will refer us to the Cambodian government for response. Another perfectly orchestrated instance of international money coming into Cambodia and dissipating straight into the quicksand.


The Cambodian staffer interviewed by the Phnom Penh Post (see below) said a number of very curious things. One, unlike it was the case at the outset of the process when the Cambodian staff at least paid lip service to the purpose of the court, now that no longer even warrants a mention. I stand by my statement below that many international staffers have come through this court by taking positions for what they could get in their domestic jurisdictions and often far below, with some working for very little money. They did it to advance the purpose of the court and for professional interest in the subject-matter in deals with. The Cambodian staffer quoted, on the other hand, makes it clear that the only reason the Cambodian staff are there is because “finding relatively well-paying jobs outside of the tribunal would prove difficult.” This brings me to two: The Cambodian staffer describing salaries on the Cambodian side as “relatively well-paying.” This is an outrage. As noted below, these salaries are 10-15 times what they are in the regular courts of Cambodia and are more than competitive in the region, even in countries that stand head and shoulders above Cambodia economically (with the exception of Singapore and Brunei). This statement demonstrates that much the Cambodian staff have cozied up to the salary levels their economy cannot nearly afford, the salaries that they now take for granted.


The UN slonked out again instead of holding its line and compelling the Cambodian government to secure funding for its own staff, as they are obligated to do by the law which governs this court. By doing so the UN, once again, reinforced the well-entrenched Cambodian attitude that if they do nothing, so long as foreigners are involved in the project, they will figure out how to get them out of Dodge (this attitude does not apply when no foreigners are involved in the project).


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