Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal: The Support from the American people

December 27, 2005
In his op-ed of 24 January in The Washington Post (re-printed by The Cambodia Daily on Tuesday, December 27, 2005) "Justice Past Due in Cambodia," Nathaniel Myers states that the US has not budgeted a dollar for the upcoming tribunal of Khmer Rouge leaders. But Myers does not mention that all funds required for the United Nations' participation have already been raised. The gap that remains is to be filled by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) which
initially agreed to make 13 million dollars available from its own budgetary resources. While it is true that America has not provided direct support for the trials, Myers neglects to note a number of important contributions that America has made.

Since 1995, the US has poured millions of dollars into Yale University and several Cambodian NGOs for the collection of documents produced during the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as monitoring and public outreach during the trials. Without US funding, it is doubtful that enough evidence would have been collected and preserved to hold the trials at all. In addition, many Cambodian and US scholars, law and other students, filmmakers, archivists, and museums working on Khmer Rouge issues have benefited from the generous (and visible) support of the American people.

Myers also says that Senator Mitch McConnell and Appropriations Subcommittee Chief Paul Grove are opposed to the trials because they feel Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen might try to hijack them. Many in the Cambodian and international communities, including in the Cambodian Government itself, share this concern. Whether the US should contribute to the Royal Government of Cambodia's share of the costs is not clear in light of this uncertainty. But in his May 2005 visit to Phnom Penh, US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper made it clear that if the tribunal proves to be credible and transparent during its first year, the US would provide both political and financial support to help the killing field's survivors find justice.

The 17 nations that have provided direct financial support for the trials are taking the same position, and like the U.S., will be watching the proceedings carefully. In the meantime, the US Government is working to build Cambodia's civil society so that it can serve as the tribunal's watchdogs and help ensure its success.

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