Australian frigate in Cambodia to mark 30th anniversary of Paris Peace Accords

Cambodia has asked Australia to provide extra funding to help finalise the Khmer Rouge tribunal that sought justice following Pol Pot's bloody rule.

Australian ambassador Pablo Kang, second from left, hands over COVID-related equipment to Cambodian authorities in the southern port of Sihanoukville after HMAS Anzac sailed into port to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements.

Australian ambassador Pablo Kang, second from left, hands over COVID-related equipment to Cambodian authorities in the southern port of Sihanoukville. Source: AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY CAMBODIA

Australia has been asked to provide extra funding for the Khmer Rouge tribunal as HMAS Anzac sailed into Cambodia's port of Sihanoukville as part of commemorations for the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords.

Australian ambassador Pablo Kang said the accords, signed on 23 October 1991, paved a way for the arrival of United Nations peacekeepers, democratic elections and an eventual end to a 30-year civil war in 1998.

He also gifted Cambodia with COVID-related medical and personal protective equipment which arrived in Cambodia on board the Australian frigate.

"The visit reinforces Australia's commitment to supporting Cambodia's future development, including its health and economic recovery from COVID-19 and our bilateral defence cooperation," Mr Kang said on Monday.

More than 1,200 Australians including Force Commander Lieutenant General John Sanderson served with the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, and the end of the war enabled the establishment of the tribunal known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

The UN-backed ECCC - a hybrid court comprising local and international judges, prosecutors and lawyers - was tasked with finding some kind of justice for the two million people who perished under Pol Pot's bloody rule between 1975 and 1979.

It has been mired by lengthy delays and controversy in securing convictions for crimes against humanity and genocide against three of Pol Pot's former senior leaders. Others died before a verdict could be reached.

As the HMAS Anzac prepared to sail into port, local media reported the Minister in Charge of the Council of Ministers Bin Chhin had asked Australia to provide extra funding for the national side of the ECCC, which is now winding down its mission.

An embassy spokesperson said that Australia would provide $2 million over 2021 and 2022 to the ECCC as agreed to in February, however, it has not announced any additional funding or extension to the funding period.

Australia has focussed on victim outreach and community education in order to help bring closure for Khmer Rouge victims and their families, and to promote the legacy of the ECCC's work.

"Australia has been a consistent significant financial contributor to the international side of the ECCC," Helen Jarvis an Australian-Cambodian, who served on the Task Force to Establish the ECCC and as Chief of Public Affairs.

She said that Australia, as third largest ECCC funder, had contributed $42 million to date and provided key personnel including Deputy International Co-Prosecutor Bill Smith and Pre-Trial Judge Rowan Downing.

Her sentiments were echoed by Craig Etcheson, author of 'Extraordinary Justice: Law, Politics, and the Khmer Rouge Tribunals', who said Australia played a key role in the early days when the ECCC was being negotiated with the UN.

"Australia's influence has been crucial to whatever successes the institution can claim," said Dr Etcheson, a Visiting Scientist at Harvard University.

Published 18 October 2021 at 7:52pm
Source: AAP - SBS