06/24/2008, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Funding problems might jeopardise trial of Khmer Rouge leaders

The original budget is insufficient to cover trial costs. Five important officials in Pol Pot’s regime are awaiting trial accused in the death of more than a million Cambodians during their five years in power. Even if it should get to the final phase, the trial might mete out only symbolic sentences.
 

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The special tribunal set up to try former members of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime is going through an unprecedented financial crisis which might frustrate efforts at bringing them to account for their deeds. In the 1970s the bloody regime led by Pol Pot caused the death of more than a million Cambodians.

The original budget was set at US$ 56 million spread over three years, but costs have ballooned, in part due to the sheer volume of pre-trial hearings ordered by the judges.

Five former top officials are currently being held awaiting trial before the special tribunal, charged with war crimes and genocide.

They include Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s right-hand man known as 'Brother Number Two'; Khieu Samphan, Khmer Rouge head of state; and Ieng Sary, the regime's foreign minister. The other two are Ieng Thirith, Ieng Sary’s wife who served as the regime's social affairs minister and Kaing Khek Eav, also known as Duch, the head of the former regime's secret police in charge of the notorious Tuol Sleng interrogation centre where opponents were tortured.

Khmer Rouges leader Pol Pot, aka ‘Brother Number One’, died in his jungle hideout on 15 April 1998 without facing justice for his crimes.

Tribunal officials expect the trial process to last at least until 2011.

However, the drawn out nature of the trial and the advanced ages and frail health of all the accused means that, even if the trials do eventually go ahead, any sentences handed down are likely to be little more than symbolic.

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