An allegation of embezzlement at the Yale Genocide Program in the US is harming the the local Documentation Center for Cambodia’s ability to raise funds, its director said Monday.
“If [the allegation] is true, it’s putting genocidal justice at risk,” said Youk Chhang, director of the local NGO.
The Documentation Center collects evidence for possible tribunals against leaders of the Khmer Rouge believed to be responsible for up to 1.7 million deaths from 1975 to 1978.
Mismanagement and embezzlement allegations surfaced last week about the Yale University-based Cambodian Genocide Project and director Ben Kiernan.
The US State Department, which provided a $2 million grant to the program, is investigating Kiernan, who took a leave of absence starting in January 1997. US government documents seen by Agence France-Presse last week said Kiernan is still drawing his salary and maintains fiscal power over the program.
Kiernan, who is believed to be traveling in Europe, has not been reached for comment.
Youk Chhang said the Documentation Center has been wholly independent from the Yale program since December 1996, but perceptions that they are still connected is harming the local center’s ability to raise funds.
“It’s very important to complete this work. We are in jeopardy of losing funding because of this confusion,” he said, adding he had no idea whether the allegations against Kiernan are true.
Youk Chhang said his center receives funds indirectly from the US State Department grant through the Yale program, but for bureaucratic reasons. Direct payment from the US to a local NGO is complicated, he said.
The scandal comes as a team of international investigators under the auspices of the UN are due to arrive in September to evaluate the evidence against the Khmer Rouge regime.
Thomas Hammarberg, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for human rights in Cambodia, has said if the team gives a positive evaluation of the evidence, tribunals could be held by next year.
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