Operation Paymaster began this past week in Phnom Penh and in the Cambodian provinces.
Spear-headed by the military officials of the Mixed Military Working Group (MMWG),
tons of money are finding their way to the hard-pressed privates and sergeants of
the Cambodian National Army, some of whom have not been paid in months. At the same
time it has allowed some of the factions to bring their payroll strength to the levels
that they had first declared under the Paris Peace Agreements.
Lt. Col. Damien Healy said of the operation, "In this complex operation we had
40 data-processors working day and night to produce "nominal roles" for
each of the three armies whose soldiers we are paying. The money had to be counted
out at the national treasury and then it has been sent by helicopter and truck to
the provinces. For example we sent 18 tons of riel to Kampong Cham, 1.7 billion riel."
At the military training hospital near Pochentong, medics, doctors, military cadets
and soldiers in medical training signed oaths of allegiance and lined up to be paid.
On this day 1,117 soldiers were paid. Members of the Ghana Battalion supplied security,
while officers from the MMWG over-saw the operation. The payment was organized by
rank, and Lt. Col Keo Chandara, the medical battalion commander, was the first payee.
Soldiers in Lt. Col. Keo's battalion said they were happy to be paid, some had been
waiting since 6 a.m., but "ot bahn-nyahaa" - no problem, they said.
Maj. Jamal, a Malaysian officer, oversaw one of the three tables. At the table a
Cambodian paymaster and an UNTAC interperter worked together. Maj. Jamal said that
"without the intepreters the operation would have been impossible."
The Cambodian interpreters from the MMWG were clearly central to the operation, as
they verified identity cards and signatures against the nominal roles compiled by
the MMWG. Since a Khmer name can usually be represented phonetically with the English
alphabet in many ways, the Khmer spelling and the signature has primary importance
in verifying the identity of the payee, along with the identity card. "Without
the intepreters accountability would have been difficult if not impossible,"
Lt. Col. Healy emphasized that the "United Nations is over-seeing the operation
on behalf of the international donor nations. While we do not dictate who the Cambodian
government chooses to pay under this budget support, we have the responsibility to
see that the money gets into the hands of those the Cambodian government says it
wants to pay."
The operation required the cooperation of the factions, because initially there was
no uniform pay structure. Army Nationale Kampuchea Independent submitted an organization
of 25 ranks, whereas the Cambodian People's Armed Forces had a rank structure of
18. A compromise agreement settled on a pay scale that included18 ranks. Maj. Ian
said "by this one act we are starting a process which to produce a true Cambodian
Armed Forces, not a loose collection of factions."
The U.N. supervised pay operation is a sharp departure from previous methods of pay
in Cambodia. Previously,provincial military pay-masters would appear at the National
Treasury to collect the pay for their province. No system of accountability was maintained
at the national level. Having created the first national data-base for the military
will not only help in ensuring accountability for the August pay, yet to be conducted
by UNTAC, but it will lay the foundation for the Cambodian Armed Forces to continue
to integrate the three factional armies that now make it up, UNTAC officials indicated.
Lt. Col. Tony Whelan said that "the former SOC army has 90,000 soldiers, ANKI
20,000; and KPLNF 16-17,000". These numbers are being verified on the ground
as payment is being made. During the period of cantonment as many as 45,000 soldiers
were given a separation allowance, the vast majority of them State of Cambodia soldiers.
These soldiers are not being allowed to re-enter the armed forces. Lt. Col. Whelan
says that these numbers are "consistent with the numbers that the factions gave
when the Paris Peace Agreements were signed."
Associated Press in Phnom Penh have reported recently that the factions are recruiting.
Sources in the MMWG indicate that in the absence of the cantonment and demobilization
of the factions, it was virtually impossible to determine who was in the forces of
the two smaller factions. The MMWG had to depend on self-declarations by ANKI and
by KPLNF. The only test these numbers had to pass, from the point of view of the
United Nations, was that they were consistent with the declarations made when the
Paris Peace Agreements were signed. At that time, it was clear that the factions
would be required to demobilize to 30% of the number of soldiers declared.
The soldiers of the former State of Cambodia are much better organized than those
of the other two factions, UNTAC military sources say.
According to the pay scale agreed in cooperation with the Cambodian Armed Forces,
basic pay ranged from 20,400 to 64,500 for the ranks of lieutenant general to "basic
soldier," the highest and lowest ranks. In addition, a family allowance was
paid, with sums for dependent children. Each soldier receives loi ang-gaa, a rice
allowance of 9,900 riel per month, regardless of rank.