Cambodia's Khmer Rouge trial suspended due to strike

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's war crimes court was forced to suspend the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders on Monday because of a strike over unpaid wages, in the latest setback to the troubled UN-backed tribunal.

About 20 Cambodian translators and interpreters are refusing to work until they receive their salaries for the past three months, court spokesman Neth Pheaktra told AFP, adding that the trial was adjourned "indefinitely".

"I appeal to the donor countries to help resolve the issue by providing more funds to the national side of the court," he said.

About 270 Cambodian employees at the UN-backed hybrid court -- including drivers, prosecutors and judges -- have received no pay since November.

The tribunal has been frequently cash-strapped since it was set up in 2006 to find justice for the deaths of up to two million people under the hardline communist Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

In late 2011 the court ran out of funds to pay hundreds of Cambodians workers until it received new funding from Japan several months later.

The tribunal, whose top donors also include the European Union, Australia, France, Germany and Britain, urgently needs some more than $7 million for 2013.

It has been hit by a string of high-profile resignations amid allegations of political meddling, as well as concerns about slow progress due to the octogenarian defendants' ill health.

In a reminder of the frail condition of the elderly accused, former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, 87, was hospitalised again on Monday for the latest in a string of ailments.

"He vomited every time he was given food. He is very weak now," his Cambodian lawyer Ang Udom told AFP.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia during their 1975-79 rule.

Ieng Sary, along with "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and one-time head of state Khieu Samphan, deny charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The court has so far achieved one conviction, sentencing former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.