CAMBODIAN Mines Action Center (CMAC) director Sam Sotha responded to charges that
his humanitarian organization's brass was planning to pamper itself with four luxuriously-appointed
Jeep Cherokees this week. "It was a dumb idea to advertise for those types off
cars," he said referring to a tender offer that ran in a local newspaper Mar
11-13. "We do not need them."
While the respected mine-clearing organization needs to upgrade its fleet of field-weary
vehicles, the options listed in the tender offer raised a few eyebrows, among them:
- Premium Leather Seats (power operated with memory)
- Overhead Console With Display Computer
- Power Antenna
- Wheels Sport Aluminium
- Dual electric mirrors
- Radio AM/FM cassette with CD player
- Speed Control (electronic)
- Steering wheel (leather wrapped)
- Locks (power with illuminated control plus programmable feature).
Sotha admits that the request was somewhat extravagant and blames underlings -
in particular an unnamed United Nations adviser - for the mis-step.
"The dealer asked for a list of things we needed. I told my staff: 'You are
dumb. We do not need that stuff'. The staff said it needed to be advertised with
a list of items. This is the way the dealers are working," he says.
Noting that the price tag for each vehicle, with all the extras, would be about $40,000,
he said: "One would only cost $32,000 without the dumb stuff."
He maintains that he was ill-advised. "I told the UN advisor: 'Why don't you
order the cars directly from the US? It would be much cheaper,'" he claims.
"It may be for the dealer to have a bigger commission."
In all fairness, it is not the first case of high-end vehicles used for humanitarian
purposes. "Compared to the cars in UNTAC, ours are very plain," he argues.
"We usually have Jeep Cherokees and we are not asking for Land Cruisers which
would be much more expensive."
One option not requested was a wench - an absolute necessity in the field during
the wet season - which will evidently not be crucial. "The four Jeeps will be
kept in Phnom Penh for me, for visiting VIPs and to visit the training center in
Kompong Chhnang," Sotha confirmed.
He concludes in his defense: "I have saved a lot of money from the donors since
I have been working for CMAC."