By SOPHENG CHEANG / AP WRITER
PHNOM PENH — Talks between Cambodia and the United Nations on how to deal with allegations of corruption at their jointly run Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal ended without agreement, raising the possibility that donors will stop funding it despite compelling testimony that continued Thursday.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An had been meeting for three days to work out a mechanism to monitor corruption at the tribunal, which has begun trying one of five leading Khmer Rouge officials for crimes allegedly committed during the group's time in power in the late 1970s.
Taksoe-Jensen was the first to report the talks' failure when they ended Wednesday night.
Defense attorneys and human rights organizations say allegations that Cambodian staff at the court pay kickbacks to keep their jobs could sink the court's credibility if not resolved.
They also pose a financial threat since most of the foreign aid donors supporting the court refuse to pay staff salaries until the corruption questions are resolved.
Cambodian Cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed that no progress had been made in the talks.
"We did not sign any agreement with the United Nations," he said Thursday.
Phay Siphan insisted that there was no evidence of any corruption and the allegations were simply an attempt to discredit the tribunal or the government.
The talks broke down even as testimony continued in the UN-assisted tribunal's first trial, in which Kaing Guek Eav, 66, the chief of the group's main prison, stands charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as homicide and torture.
A Cambodian man told the court Thursday he was held captive in a deep communal dirt pit in a Khmer Rouge jungle prison for a year but survived by working for the commander digging graves for other inmates.
Ouch Sorn, 72, the first Cambodian survivor to testify, said when was let out of the communal pit he shared with about 20 men he saw inmates tied naked to poles, beaten, submerged in water during interrogation and executed by young pistol-wielding guards. He saw one woman pushed into a grave while still alive, he said.
Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, listened anxiously to the testimony and told the judges that the testimony was "not really accurate" and that the witness "spoke more than the truth."
Duch insisted that extreme torture was not used at the small prison he ran before being assigned to command Tuol Sleng, the most notorious prison in the regime, where 16,000 people were tortured before execution.
"There were no pliers, no pins and no nails were pulled," he said.
The witness said he never saw Duch execute anyone but saw him beat a woman unconscious, and "then he slapped his butt and he laughed."
Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Four more are in custody and scheduled to be tried sometime over the next year or two.
An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the Khmer Rouge from executions, forced labor, starvation and medical neglect.