Cambodia Khmer Rouge tribunal staff going unpaid

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — About 300 Cambodian staff members at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal trying former leaders of the Khmer Rouge have been working since December without pay, and face the prospect of not getting paid this year unless foreign aid donors contribute more funds, a tribunal official said Friday.

Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that $9.3 million is needed for salaries and daily operating costs in 2013 for the Cambodian component of the operation. All functions of the tribunal have Cambodian and international personnel operating in tandem but with separate budgets.

The tribunal is tasked with seeking justice for atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge during their four years in power in the late 1970s. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the radically communist regime from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions.

The tribunal spent $141.1 million from 2006 through 2011. It expects total costs of $230.7 million by its projected conclusion in 2013, and has warned that it faces severe budgetary shortfalls.

The salary delay has demoralized the Cambodia staff, said Neth Pheaktra.

On Friday the tribunal announced that Japan has contributed $2.5 million to the U.N., or international, component of the tribunal, which is also short of funds but not quite as desperate. Japan is the biggest contributor to the tribunal with $79.13 million in total, while France, Germany and Britain are also major donors.

The statement said Japan considers it important for the tribunal to proceed "in a fair, efficient, and expeditious manner, given the advanced age and frail health of the persons charged and in order to achieve the long overdue justice for the people of Cambodia."

The age and infirm health of the defendants has raised concerns they may not live long enough to hear a verdict on the changes against them. They are the 81-year-old former head of state, Khieu Samphan, the 86-year-old ideologist of the group, Nuon Chea, and 87-year-old Ieng Sary, former foreign minister.

The three have been charged for crimes against humanity and other offenses. Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were hospitalized this week suffering from fatigue and shortness of breath and acute bronchitis, respectively.

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