Cambodia, a "window for Japanese diplomacy"

11 April 2008 by Christine Chaumeau

A decisive step has been taken towards setting up the Extraordinary Chambers to try Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia. Thirteen countries pledged a wide range of contributions at a fundraising conference organised by the United Nations secretariat on 28 March. The Japanese government's massive financial investment in the future trials may not be unrelated to its regional struggle for influence with China.

In all, donors pledged $38m. This leaves only $5m to complete the United Nation's portion of the provisional budget of $56.3m total required. France pledged $4.8m, followed by Australia with $2.3m. The United States pledged nothing. In spite of longstanding US support for setting up the chambers, Congress wants to signal its disapproval of the Cambodian government's current political policies. Japan takes the lion's share, with its pledge to hand over $21.6m. This was announced back in February, and it is reported that the funds have already been paid into the UN bank account. "Without the involvement of Japan, the trials would never take place", admits Takahashi Fumiaki, the Japanese ambassador to Cambodia. "The contribution that was announced at the beginning of the year has mobilised the support of other actors. By pledging to cover half of the [UN] budget, we have launched a movement and incited other donor countries to contribute to making the Extraordinary Chambers a reality." For its part, Cambodia must finalise its contribution by securing $13m in bilateral donations.

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