Salaries as elusive as justice at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge trial

Fri Feb 1, 2013 2:44am EST
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By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian staff at a Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal have gone two months without pay and are threatening a walkout amid a deepening funding crisis at a court already bogged down by resignations and the ill health of its elderly defendants.

Some 270 Cambodians have not been paid since November and are working at the U.N.-backed court without contracts, caught up in a standoff between donors and a government criticized for its lack of support for hearings into one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

Between 1.7 and 2.2 million people, almost a quarter of Cambodia's population, died between 1975 and 1979 under the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge regime.

Pol Pot, the architect of the "Year Zero" revolution, died in 1998, but his sidekicks are now on trial for murder and crimes against humanity, among a litany of charges.

"They gave us some information about our salaries but it didn't really explain anything," said one staff member, declining to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, referring to the court.

"We are angry and discouraged," he told Reuters, adding that he and many of his colleagues planned to walk out if they were not paid within the next two weeks.

The funding dispute puts the spotlight on the commitment of the government, which has been accused of interfering behind the scenes to put the brakes on the court and limit the scope of investigations that could implicate powerful political figures.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who defected to the regime's eventual conquerors, Vietnam, has said he would "not allow" any new indictments and would be happy if the United Nations packed up and left.   Continued...