MORE than 3.6 tons of Cambodia's gold reserves - and perhaps as much as 8.6 tons
- has disappeared since the 1960's, according to the former National Bank of Cambodia
Director-General Heng Kim-Y.
"I am afraid that the successive Cambodian governments have withdrawn more than
the 12.4 tonnes you mentioned [in the May 8 article] ," Kim-Y wrote to the Phnom
Penh Post May 13.
The Post revealed that the Cambodian government has successfully claimed
12.4 tonnes of gold from the Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements in an
un-publicized deal. But Heng Kim-Y - who was the NBC governor in the 1960s - said
that the government seemed to have used up much more than that.
"At the end of the sixties, the gold belonging to Cambodia was more than 21
tons, of which 16 tons [were] deposited at BIS," Kim-Y wrote.
He said 5 tons were deposited with a bank other than the BIS, and that Cambodia had
also had $200 million in cash invested offshore.
Kim-Y said that he had relevant internal NBC documents to prove his claim, but says
he will show them "only to the legal government of Cambodia".
He added that the International Monetary Fund should easily be able to confirm the
details - including dates and the payee - about any withdrawal of gold, as the central
bank was obliged to declare all such transactions.
Chhang Song, former Information Minister in late 1974, said the president of the
Khmer Republic, Lon Nol, tried getting the gold in 1975 to finance the war against
the Khmer Rouge, but failed. "President Lon Nol went to the Swiss bank in 1975
to withdraw that money in order to reorganize his regime to fight and get the power
from the KR, but he got nothing," Chhang said.
He said the gold had been a tightly-kept secret, as those who knew about it were
hoping to keep some of it for themselves. "Very few Cambodian ministers knew
about that gold story," he said. "If they knew, they tried to have it,"
Some of the gold came from the finance section of the NBC, and some from the a French-Cambodian
rubber company called Cambodia Co., Chhang said. Some of the gold was also reserved
for the use of Royal Palace, he added.
Kim-Y said that the gold was not a foreign reserve, but rather an asset of the NBC
that "belongs to the Cambodian people".
"It is very exceptional that the Government [can] use the gold detained by the
central bank for budget purposes... If so, the national money will depreciate and
the national economy will collapse irremediably," he wrote. He added that then-Prince
Sihanouk had forbidden the use of the gold during his regime.
"Words like secret deal, negotiated settlement, victory and so on ... do not
suit central bank ethics at all. Any secret negotiated settlement is illegal."