The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s co-investigating judges have confirmed they hold “deep concerns” about the financial position of the court and the future of three controversial cases, following revelations published by The Post yesterday.
According to an excerpt from a confidential document, judges are considering a permanent stay of proceedings for Meas Muth, Ao An and Yim Tith from June 30 due to lack of funding, meaning there would be no possibility of re-opening the investigations against them.
Muth, the alleged former naval commander; Ao An, allegedly a former Central Zone secretary; and Tith, alleged former acting secretary of the Northwest Zone, all stand accused of genocide and other crimes against humanity.
“It is correct that a request for submissions has gone out to the parties in Cases 003, 004 and 004/2 . . . expressing the Judges’ deep concerns about the funding situation of the Tribunal and what it may mean for the future of these cases,” investigating judges You Bunleng and Michael Bohlander said in a statement.
They further said their request was confidential because it was part of the investigation phase, and because of “the highly sensitive nature of the issue”, adding the tribunal’s office of administration would need to consult with the UN and the Cambodian government on the budget-related issues.
Analysts yesterday doubted that funding was the sole cause of the potential impending stay of proceedings, saying that all three cases had been “tainted” by government influence, especially after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s repeated suggestions that the prosecutions could bring about civil war.
Muth defence lawyer Ang Udom welcomed the news that his client’s case may come to an end next month and said the UN had failed to secure funds. Asked if he was happy, he said: “Suppose you were offered $1 million, would you be happy with it? It’s an obvious answer.”
But one of the 646 civil parties in Case 003 – victims of the regime who are represented at the tribunal – said that the case being discontinued would not be the first instance where the court fell short of delivering a sense of justice. There are also 2,007 civil parties across Case 004.
Kim Suy, 52, from Banteay Meanchey’s Phnom Srok district, lost his father, mother and three siblings to the brutal regime. He is a civil party in Case 003, as well as 001 and 002. “We have lost hope that the court will provide us justice. Our inner suffering is never healed,” he said.
According to a court document from March, the court has spent $293 million since 2006, around $30 million of that last year. Japan is by far the biggest donor, followed by the US, Australia and Cambodia.
Court observer Long Panhavuth said while funding has been a persistent issue – prompting staff walkouts in 2013 – the judges’ reasoning struck him as a “saving face excuse”.
“What is the difference between [this and] the 1979 tribunal? They prosecute only those ones who the government wants to prosecute, and this is the same,” he said, referring to the four-day Vietnamese trial which sentenced Pol Pot and Ieng Sary to life imprisonment in absentia. “This is a win-win for the UN and the Cambodian government, but it is a loss for the victims.”
Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, head of the Khmer Rouge taskforce, could not be reached yesterday. The prosecution declined to comment, and defence lawyers for Yim Tith and Ao An did not respond to calls.
According to a segment from the document obtained by The Post, which was characterised as a summary by sources, submissions on the potential halting of legal proceedings are due by June 5.
Additional reporting by Chhay Chhanyda